Friday, December 7, 2012

Diggin' in the Dirt...

(Editors Note: The following is the last in a series of excerpts from my new book Raising the Roof! A Homebuilder's Secrets to Saving Time and Money. So often homeowners take a "Ready, Fire, Aim" approach to the building process. Raising the Roof! attempts to re-orient the process so most of the planning occurs upfront, before leaving the architect's office. This piece is a snippet from the section dealing with the necessary "fourth leg" of the Project Team stool, the landscape architect. 

A courtyard at night shows off a landscape architect’s talent.

Our business may have been the only operation in North America which actually started and owned a landscape company and never knew the difference between a bush and a tree! Private Gardens was born in early 2000, staffed with a talented landscape architect, and organized with the thought of offering all of our homebuilding clients “curb to curb” design and construction services. It worked – but then again it didn’t! Our clientele didn’t want all of the in-house attention afforded them with complete construction and landscape services. They wanted the little yellow truck in front of their house known locally as Lambert’s Landscaping. After three years of beating our heads against the flowerbeds, we closed the business.

Those three years were very educational. Every business is unique. We are unique in being able to coordinate and assemble large pieces of a complex puzzle which people eventually live in. Lambert’s, on the other hand, is gifted at coordinating “flora” and some “fauna,” making each property beautiful. Dallas is blessed with a healthy number of fine landscape architects who work magic in the yard.

In terms of a four-legged stool supporting the design and construction of a home, the landscape architect represents the fourth and final leg of the stool (along with the architect, contractor, and interior designer). The landscape architect’s discipline is equally as important to the process as any other.

In a perfect world, a landscape architect would join the design team at the same time as the three other legs of the stool. Early in the design process, the Project Team needs enough “hardscape” input (walks, stone walls and columns, pools, etc.) from the landscape architect, so that preliminary on-site work can be done at the same time as the home building.   If it’s known ahead of time where stone walls, columns, pools, and other hardscape features will be located, it is most cost effective to drill, form, and pour those footings while the house foundation is being constructed. Common sense says if the concrete trucks and pump jacks have to come back a second time, it ain’t going to be cheap. Real savings can be realized if all of the disciplines are properly coordinated.

“Softscape,” or planting materials (trees, grass, and the like), can always be defined later in the building process if the planting beds are master planned into the overall site design. Think of it in terms of trim and paint: It’s always easy to worry about the decorative stuff and colors later, if provisions have been made for those items in the master planning of the house. 

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