All About Design-Build Landscape Construction

All About Design-Build Landscape Construction

Top tips for a better investment and landscape, from design through construction

 

What is Design-Build Landscaping?

Design-Build landscaping is exactly how it sounds: one team provides both the design and installation of the landscape, rather than splitting those services between companies. Design-build landscaping is quite common and provides multiple benefits. Unfortunately, a homeowner or building owner will often hire a landscape contractor to install plants and irrigation without design. This is not the ideal scenario. As with any type of building, it is always best to begin with a design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Design-Build?

When the same company performs both design and installation, their professionals work together often and can provide a more seamless delivery. The teamwork involved in the design-build process for landscape construction can add a lot of value to your finished landscape. Often an integration of architects, designers, engineers, and builders, the design-build process takes advantage of professional, licensed experts working together from concept to finished construction. The goal of this integrated process is to fulfill your priorities of landscape design and budget. At Madrone Landscape we believe strongly in the design-build process because the benefits are twofold: it allows us to do incredible work with and build great relationships with both our peers and our clients.

Design-Bid-Build vs. Design-Build: What are the Differences?

Design-Bid-Build: The design-bid-build process is common in the construction industry for clients who want separate design and construction firms. A landscape designer will provide plans for you, and then you will ask contractors to bid the plans. The design can go quickly if there are no cost limitations discussed. Once the contractors provide their costs to install the project, you may be shocked to see how much it will cost to build. This is when you or the contractor decides how to change the design to fit within the construction budget (this process is called value engineering, where items are removed from a plan or less expensive options are chosen to reduce overall cost). You may also go back to the landscape designer to re-design (typically for an extra fee). In design-bid-build, you select a contractor based on the bid price. It then becomes your responsibility to orchestrate all of the design and construction activities – including introducing the contractor to the designer.

Design-Build: At Madrone Landscape, we specialize in the design-build process. Our landscape architect and designers not only help you with the initial design, they also help navigate any obstacles encountered during construction. We provide construction cost estimates during the design process (for more information, see our design page). This usually adds time to the overall design time, for good reason. Knowing construction costs during the design process allows you to make decisions on where to spend money and keeps the plan within the desired budget. A cost-informed design means the value engineering is done well before the project starts. The entire team will be working together with the landscape designer to make sure that there are few unforeseen lapses between designs or construction activities. For new construction, this will include your engineers, architects, and builders. For custom residential updates, your design-build team becomes your expert advocate through design and construction and we handle scheduling and coordination with all parties involved.

Five Tips When Choosing Design-Build Landscaping

1. Know what you need/want before you start.

Often, a client will come to us with a list of items they want designed into their landscape, such as a patio, wall, fountain, or pergola. What they may actually mean is that they need a shady place to entertain guests with pretty things to look at. While your spouse may want a fountain, he or she may appreciate boulders and flowers just as much. When you prioritize your goals before starting design, you can prevent being caught off guard during the design process. Design is almost always a team decision. If you and your family can align your wants and needs before the design starts, the design will turn out better and go more quickly.

2. Establish a construction budget.

Before starting the design process, establish a budget or range for what you intend to spend on construction, and share that information with your designer. This will help them design within range. Typically, the construction cost of landscapes is between 10 to 25 times the design fee, although this may vary.

3. Take your time with budget decisions.

During the beginning of the design process decisions are easy; we refer to this as the honeymoon period. You may find yourself saying, “I love that stone veneer, it looks just like the picture I saw on Houzz!” After construction costs are introduced, major design elements may be on the chopping block. Do you keep the outdoor kitchen, or the stone paving? Allow yourself time, so you don’t rush these decisions.

4. Trust your gut – and your landscape team.

Taking on a big project and the resulting investment of your funds will greatly affect your daily life. You need experts you can trust to help you achieve your goals. If you don’t have a level of trust with your landscape team, the relationship and project will not work. You need to feel comfortable giving them both positive and negative feedback, and they need to feel comfortable giving you good and bad news. Your designer will not only be helping you with the initial design, but also will be helping to navigate any obstacles encountered during construction.

5. Communicate often and clearly.

During design and construction, changes happen. To best facilitate these changes, we will ask a lot of questions to make sure we are designing efficiently. Whether you would like to give us artistic license on decisions, or you have particular opinions that need to be known, it is important you communicate your preferences clearly.

 

A Better Investment and Landscape

It’s our experience that the design-build process produces a better product with stronger teamwork and a healthy working relationship. The process takes time to do well. Expect two to six months of design before construction for custom residential updates, and often longer for new home or new commercial construction. Being well prepared can shorten this time frame. If you have new construction, you should consider hiring your landscape architect at the same time that you hire an architect. We strongly believe that the design-build relationship you foster with us will make you feel good about the investment and the landscape you create.

Do you have additional questions about the design-build process and its benefits? Email us at [email protected] or give us a call at 805-466-6263.

 

Landscape Architectural Services FAQ

Landscape Architectural Services FAQ

Navigating a multidisciplinary project or need plans for submittal?  Our landscape architectural services may be what you need, here are some FAQ’s about our services:

Committing to a new landscape or landscape overhaul for your home can be daunting. Especially if you haven’t done a remodel project before, there can be a lot of unknowns when taking on this type of home improvement project.

Our landscape architects and designers do their best to guide clients through every step – making it as seamless, painless, and stress-free as possible. Every project is different and has its own unique variables, but the basic questions we are asked most at the beginning of the landscape process are often the same.

Have more questions? Review our design services or contact our landscape architecture office, [email protected] or (805) 466-6263.

What types of plans does Madrone provide?

Madrone provides demolition, planting, hardscape, irrigation, lighting, utility, grading and drainage plans.  We also provide construction details for all of the aforementioned plans and specifications depending on the project needs.

We are building a new home and new landscape. When should we bring in the landscape architect?

For new construction projects, you can count on landscaping as the final step. Planned correctly, landscape installation can begin during the final construction stages. Talk to landscape architects and builders from the get-go so that they can get you on their schedule.

Sometimes landscape architects and designers work concurrently with architects and civil engineers on landscape plans, but your designer will need a finalized site plan with building footprint and finished grading to work from.

TIP: Be sure that your general contractor helps plan for landscaping by adding sleeving underneath any concrete or asphalt for future irrigation pipe.

We are thinking of updating our landscape. How far ahead should we plan?

Landscape construction crews can book out anywhere from 2-6 months in advance, so make sure to get on your builder’s radar early. This is one major benefit of working with design/build companies like Madrone.

TIP: The best time to plant in our California Central Coast region is the fall so that root systems can develop over the winter months.

Will we need permits for our landscape construction?

Check with your local municipality to find out if you need any permits for your landscape. Shade structures that are attached to your home or are built within a certain proximity to your home may need to be permitted. There may be water usage allowances for irrigation, and permits are often required for graywater irrigation systems. Permit filings can take 6+ weeks to be processed once received.

Does Madrone create master plans for estates?

One of our strengths is estate landscape architecture.  We have a long history with winery tasting room design, commercial design, residential estate design, and complex hardscape design.  Every property owner has different goals and lifestyles and we have seen it all.  We focus on circulation, usage, and function to design vehicular access, walkways, outbuildings, event areas, patios, kitchens, pergolas, fireplaces, fountains, walls, fountains, and more.  In addition, we have decades of construction experience in concert with most construction trades.  This allows us to make master plans that involve intelligent phasing, budget analysis, and permit strategizing.  We have a network of architects and engineers to fulfill additional design needs for estate-level planning and development.

What is the design process and how long does it typically take?

The design process is the time that you, the client, spend with a landscape architect or designer on the conceptual vision of your outdoor space.  Most landscape designs can be completed from start to finish within 3-6 months, while others can take up to a full calendar year.

Every designer or firm has a unique process, but generally will start with visiting your site and asking questions about your needs. The length of time spent on design will vary based on size of project, number of built elements, complexity of site constraints, and the number of changes made during the process. If a design isn’t agreed on at the first or second draft, more revisions may be necessary. 

Once the designer has developed an understanding of your project, they will create an overall layout on paper, then gradually start to specify treatments, finishes and building techniques as ideas are approved.

At the end of the process, the owner will receive a complete set of construction documents which will serve as a tool for estimating construction cost and to ultimately guide the landscape installation.

 

How much does a landscape cost? What are the variables?

The cost of a new installed landscape can vary widely. Just like designing a house, with all things being equal, it will cost more to design a large area than a small one. The price then increases depending on how many built elements you want to include and the types of materials you choose.

Click here for a basic outline of some of defining elements that will ultimately determine the cost of your landscape design and installation.

What is the turnaround time for Madrone for landscape plans for a simple commercial submittal?

In addition to custom hardscape plans, we also often provide simple planting and irrigation plans for architects around the state. These tend to be simpler plantings with more complicated irrigation systems and calculations.  Our team can typically turn these around in a couple weeks from being provided a civil AutoCAD file and we pride ourselves on making deadlines early.

What is the difference between landscape architects and landscape designers?

Landscape designers require no certifications and generally focus on small scale residential planting plans.  Landscape architects are licensed by the state (of California) and undergo rigorous testing for certification.  In addition to basic residential design, landscape architects handle commercial and public projects generally interfacing with other design professionals such as architects and engineers (civil, structural and soils).  Landscape architects specialize in complex structural changes to properties and provide plans for demolition, hardscape, irrigation, lighting, utilities, grading, drainage, construction details, and specification.  Landscape architects can stamp and take lead for plan submittals.  At Madrone, we have both landscape designers and landscape architects on staff and can handle a wide range of projects in a collaborative environment ensuring high standards on each project.

How much information/direction does a designer need from the client?

The more information you can share up front with your designer, the more likely they will be able to design an incredible landscape that reflects your personal flair while including your desired or required elements. We love hearing about what styles and elements you do and don’t like so we know what direction to start with on your design. Browsing Pinterest and Houzz boards can be super helpful for this.

On the flipside, there’s also no shame in not knowing what you want—that’s what we’re here for!

Whether you know exactly what you’re looking for or not, the most helpful thing you can do throughout the design process is provide your feedback. We try very hard to customize each design project to the personality and needs of each client, so when we go through our concept and revision meetings, we want to hear what you really think. Honest feedback during our meetings is the best way to help us give you the design you’ve been dreaming of!

How do we decide what to include in our landscape design?

There are two interconnecting pieces to consider: landscape design area and desired landscape features or amenities. For instance, if you are looking to include a veggie garden, new patio, pergola, hot tub, flower garden, and meandering paths, you’re going to need a relatively extensive landscape design area.

Often in design, we encourage creating a landscape master plan. If it makes most sense financially to proceed with construction in steps, a sitewide design will ensure a functional and cohesive final design and finished project. Even if you envision installing the veggie beds at a later phase, it makes sense to design their location, orientation, and aesthetic or “design language” from the start.

As far as design features go, it may help to draw up a list of your desired elements before an initial consultation. You can discuss these items with the designer and see if any other ideas arise out of the design process. Browsing inspiration online on places such as Houzz or Pinterest, flipping through design books and magazines, or taking a walk around your neighborhood are also great ways to pinpoint your list of features and amenities.

At what point will we know how much our desired landscape costs?

Our design process includes using cost information as a tool to help guide design decisions. Once we’ve established our initial concept plan, our next step is to revise and refine the landscape plan and provide the client with budgetary installation prices. This estimate includes individual line item descriptions, quantities, and costs for every element of the project. This means you can see clearly where every dollar is being spent, and where there are opportunities to substitute materials or methods with less expensive alternatives without sacrificing functionality.

How do we determine what plants to include in our landscape?

To determine the plants for your landscape, also known as the plant palette, your designer will ask questions of style—Mediterranean, modern, xeric, Spanish, something else. During our design process, you will have opportunity to discuss planting selections, ask questions, and provide feedback.

Our designers are familiar with plant species that work well in the Central Coast, from Arroyo Grande through Paso Robles to Grover Beach through Cayucos and beyond. Each area has its own set of microclimates—unique characteristics including sun patterns, wind, humidity, shade, and more, that determine a plant’s suitability. Regardless of where the project is within our region, we strive to propose appropriate plantings that will use minimal water throughout the year, thereby promoting water conservation.

Don’t have a green thumb? That’s not a problem! Let our designers know, and they will be sure to propose the most low-maintenance options.

Five Questions to ask Before Hiring a Landscape Maintenance Contractor

Five Questions to ask Before Hiring a Landscape Maintenance Contractor

Top tips for selecting a landscape maintenance team

From weekly or seasonal maintenance to event preparation or landscape enhancements, here are the top questions to ask to ensure you hire a licensed landscape maintenance team who will meet your needs.

1. How long have you been in business? What kind of insurance and licensing do you have?

A company that has been in business ten years or more is likely a reliable, trustworthy contractor. Whether you are a homeowner who needs weekly maintenance or a commercial property owner who needs pest control, check the company’s portfolio to see whether they have expertise on projects like yours.

Madrone Landscape has been in business for over 40 years. We offer weekly gardening services for residential clients in North San Luis Obispo County and estate maintenance for the broader San Luis Obispo County, Northern Santa Barbara County, and Southern Monterey County. We also offer high quality commercial, municipal, and HOA maintenance services for all of San Luis Obispo County.

For additional consideration, ensure that your landscaping company has workers compensation insurance, general liability insurance, bonded workers, and appropriate state licensing. For weed, pest, and disease control, your maintenance contractor will need to be spray certified.

Madrone Landscape has workers compensation insurance and general liability insurance. Our landscape maintenance crews are bonded, and we maintain a California state landscape contractor license.

2. Do you have specialists on staff? What services do you offer?

Professional landscaping firms will employ experts with degrees in landscape architecture and horticulture. They should have expertise in landscape irrigation, as well as a thorough knowledge of the type of plants you have growing in your landscape design.

Homeowners, commercial property owners, and HOAs all require different services for different properties. Ensure the company you hire provides the services you require. Traditionally, maintenance projects may include mowing and editing, irrigation repair, fertilizing, dead-heading, and mulching. Larger projects may need specialized maintenance at different intervals throughout the year. Consider whether you need seasonal maintenance, event preparation, and/or regular landscape enhancement.

3. How do your maintenance crews practice sustainability? Do you offer alternatives to chemicals?

If sustainability is important to you, be sure to ask about alternatives to fertilizer and chemicals. Companies at the forefront of landscaping will employ methods such as compost tea fertilizer, integrated pest management, and organic fertilizers, ensuring your yard is a safe and healthy place for your family.

At Madrone Landscape, we are known for sustainable practices. We focus on plant health and the effective use of water. Our Healthy Gardens program introduces organic methods to fertilizer and weed, pest, and disease control.

4. Can you provide us with an estimate? How do you communicate with clients?

A professional landscape contractor will provide you an estimate tailored to your individual needs. After visiting your project and listening to your wants and requirements, they will ask you questions to determine your exact needs. 

Once you’ve accepted your estimate, your contract ensures you know what to expect on each visit, from weekly maintenance to seasonal maintenance, plant replacement, and irrigation repairs.

At Madrone Landscape, each contract is different—just like each project. Madrone Landscape provides a customized written estimate for each project. Once we’ve discussed your estimate, we put together a landscape maintenance contract specifically for you. Our Maintenance Manager, Coner Boaen, is the one point of contact for our maintenance clients.

Check with your landscape maintenance contractor to see whether they will have an account manager assigned to you. Will they call you to schedule appointments, or simply send notices in your invoice?

5. Will you provide references?

In addition to checking Yelp to see how the company ranks, ask for references, including addresses. Check the properties to see if they are maintained at the level you expect for your own property, whether residential or commercial. Madrone Landscape recently was awarded “Top-rated Local” for ranking in the top-five landscape companies in the state for customer satisfaction.

We are happy to provide a list of references for you to call and testimonials for your review!

Do you have additional questions? Call us at the office and ask for Coner Boaen, Maintenance Manager at (805) 466-6263.

Five Questions to ask Before Hiring a Landscape Maintenance Contractor

Nine Questions to ask Before Hiring a Landscape Maintenance Contractor

Top tips for selecting a landscape maintenance team

From weekly to seasonal maintenance, to event preparation, or landscape enhancements: here are the top questions to ask to ensure you hire a licensed professional who will meet your needs.

1. How long have you been in business?

A company that has been in business ten years or more is likely a reliable, trustworthy contractor. Whether you are a homeowner who needs weekly maintenance or a commercial property owner who needs pest control, check the company’s portfolio to see whether they have expertise on projects like yours.

Madrone Landscape has been in business for over 40 years. We offer weekly gardening services for residential clients in North San Luis Obispo County and estate maintenance for the broader San Luis Obispo County, Northern Santa Barbara County, and Southern Monterey County. We also offer high quality commercial, municipal, and HOA maintenance services for all of San Luis Obispo County.

2. What kind of insurance and licensing do you have?

Your landscaping company should have workers compensation insurance, general liability insurance, bonded workers and appropriate state licensing. For weed, pest, and disease control, your maintenance contractor will need to be spray certified.  

Madrone Landscape has workers compensation insurance and general liability insurance. Our landscape maintenance crews are bonded, and we maintain a California state landscape contractor license.

3.Do you have specialists on staff?

Professional landscaping firms will employ experts with degrees in landscape architecture and horticulture. They should have expertise in landscape irrigation, as well as thorough knowledge of the type of plants you have growing in your landscape design.

At Madrone Landscape, our degreed and trained landscape designers and horticulturists establish and maintain our clients’ landscapes in superior condition. Our landscape maintenance teams are led by Taryn Via, Maintenance Manager. With a background in property management, Taryn has over 13 years of experience working directly with homeowners, HOAs, and commercial property owners.

4.What services do you offer?

Homeowners, commercial property owners, and HOAs all require different services for different properties. Ensure the company you hire provides the services you require. Traditionally, maintenance projects may include mowing and editing, irrigation repair, fertilizing, dead-heading, and mulching. Larger projects may need specialized maintenance at different intervals throughout the year. Consider whether you need seasonal maintenance, event preparation, and/or regular landscape enhancement.

5.How do your maintenance crews practice sustainability? Do you offer alternatives to chemicals?

If sustainability is important to you, be sure to ask about alternatives to fertilizer and chemicals. Companies at the forefront of landscaping will employ methods such as compost tea fertilizer, integrated pest management, and organic fertilizers, ensuring your yard is a safe and healthy place for your family.

At Madrone Landscape, we are known for sustainable practices. We focus on plant health and the effective use of water. Our Healthy Gardens program introduces organic methods to fertilizer and weed, pest, and disease control.

6.Can you provide us with an estimate?

A professional landscape contractor will provide you an estimate tailored to your individual needs. After visiting your project, listening to your needs and requirements, they will ask you questions to determine your exact needs.

Madrone Landscape provides a customized written estimate for each project.

7.What does my contract include?

Once you’ve accepted your estimate, your landscape contract will provide you a contract outlining what to expect on each visit, ranging from weekly maintenance to seasonal maintenance, plant replacement, and irrigation repairs.

At Madrone Landscape, each contract is different – just like each project. Once we’ve discussed your estimate, we put together a custom contract specifically for you.

8. How do you communicate with clients?

Will you have an account manager assigned to you? Will they call you to schedule appointments, or simply send notices in your invoice?

Our Maintenance Manager, Taryn Via, is the one point of contact for our maintenance clients.

9. Will you provide references?

In addition to checking Yelp to see how the company ranks, ask for references, including addresses. Check the properties to see if they are maintained at the level you expect for your own property, whether residential or commercial. Madrone Landscape recently was awarded “Top-rated Local” for ranking in the top-five landscape companies in the state for customer satisfaction.

We are happy to provide a list of references for you to call and testimonials for your review!

Do you have additional questions? Ask for Coner Boaen, Maintenance Manager, at (805) 466-6263.