Landscape architects—they are members of a team that you call in when you want your landscape to have an impact. Landscape architects are the professionals that help you turn your property into your dream home. And into a true investment.
Landscape Architects: Background
Who are landscape architects? To become a landscape architect usually requires a bachelor’s or master’s degree in landscape. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are two undergraduate professional degrees: a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) and a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (BSLA). Typically, these degrees entail four or five years of study in design, construction techniques, art, history, natural and social sciences.
For landscape architects seeking advanced degrees, there are two routes. Those who hold undergraduate degrees in landscape architecture can earn their Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) in two years. If you hold an undergraduate degree in a field other than landscape architecture and want to go into landscape architecture, the MLA usually takes three years of full-time study.
In 2007, 61 U.S. colleges and universities offered 79 undergraduate and graduate programs in landscape architecture that were accredited by the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).
Landscape Architects: Their Work Process
The first step for landscape architects in planning a project is to study it as a whole. First, they strive to understand the clients’ objectives and the available budget. At the same time, they take into consideration the natural elements of the property, such as the climate, soil, trees and other vegetation, and the slope of the land and resulting drainage issues. Additionally, they assess where sunlight falls during the different seasons and the different times of day. They also take into account the surrounding area—the neighboring homes and buildings, sidewalks, streets and utilities.
With studies and analyses in hand, landscape architects then draw up a preliminary design. This is the time when landscape architects consult with other professionals who may be involved in the project, such as civil engineers, landscape contractors or residential architects. This initial design takes into account any late-arriving changes that the client wants, as well as unforeseen requirements made by different governing bodies. In other words, changes, additions and adjustments are expected during this stage.
A proposal is then prepared, showing detailed plans of what the landscaping will look like. Most landscape architects use computer-aided design (CAD) in these technology-driven days and some firms even use video simulation to help clients better see the suggested ideas and plans. The final proposal may include written reports, sketches, models, photographs and cost estimates. These documents will be used both by the client and regulatory agencies.
Finally, landscape architects prepare working drawings to be used by the landscape contractors that show all existing and proposed features. Included is an outline that details the methods of construction and lists the approved materials. At this point, landscape architects usually move into a supervisory role, monitoring the project as the landscape contractors and their crews carry out the plans.
Landscape Architects: Finding One
In the state of Texas, the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners www.tbae.state.tx.us/Professions/Landscape.shtml regulates the practice of landscape architects. Only those individuals who have become registered as landscape architects may legally call themselves a landscape architect. The website provides a link to find a registered landscape architect.
The American Society of Landscape Architects (www.asla.org) is one of the leading industry groups for landscape architects. Founded in 1899, ASLA represents more than 18,200 members in 48 professional chapters and 68 student chapters. Its website offers a “firm finder” link.
Landscape Architects: Things To Do Before Interviewing
The ASLA offers these tips to better prepare yourself to find the best landscape architect for you:
- Think about what you want and how you will use your landscape. Formal entertaining, herb gardens, and children’s playgrounds are just some of the possibilities. Think about your preferences for the look of the grounds—would you like an English garden design or perhaps a Modern landscape design?
- Don’t just limit yourself to plants and trees; maybe you would like a distinctive garden gate, an outdoor water fountain, a outdoor kitchen, swimming pool or dramatic landscape lighting.
- Make a realistic budget. One rule of thumb is to invest 5 to 10 percent of your house’s worth into landscaping. If this seems steep, remember that homes with professional landscaping can fetch 15-20 percent more at the time of resale than homes that lack landscaping, according to a 2004 study commissioned by the Professional Landcare Network.
- Look at books and magazines for ideas and start a file of plants, trees, gardens, yards, pools, patios, decks, fences and other hardscapes that you like—or dislike—to show your landscape architect. This research will help you communicate what you want to achieve or avoid.