Starting From Scratch

When building a brand new home or embarking on a large-scale renovation, the ultimate plan of attack is to get a landscape architect in as early as possible. Though one’s instinct might be to leave the outdoors until last, engaging a landscape architect early in the design process allows for a holistic, seamless approach and ensures that you’ll get the most value out of your consultants. You’re paying for the best and getting your consultants working together will result in the best possible finished design, even something a bit magical.

When should you engage a landscape architect?

A landscape architect should be engaged as early as possible, before any plans are approved by council and before the architect has poured too much work into the design – while most architects these days see the benefits of working with landscapers, they won’t want to tip hours of work down the drain. Ideally the architect will draw up a preliminary concept, then they and the landscape architect will sit together and thrash out the nitty gritty details before presenting the client with the designs for both inside and outside. This enables the two consultants to negotiate, push each other – or pull each other back, as needed – without the client getting stuck in the middle.

What are the advantages?

The way we live has changed – see the rise in recent years of the outdoor room – and the line between indoors and outdoors is increasingly blurred; looking at these two spaces together rather than separately is a no-brainer. Engaging a landscape architect early in the design process can result in the home connecting more seamlessly with the outdoors, which is after all what most people really want. In practical terms, it might involve the architect and landscape architect discussing the view from the kitchen window and how flipping or slightly rotating the plan could improve this. Or, if it’s a sloping site, adjusting the level of the house to meet the garden could save massive amounts on excavation costs.

Cross-discipline collaboration also results in a more consistent design. The architect’s designs might play on certain strengths of the site, which the landscape architect can then also focus on and run with, resulting in a more coherent design overall.

What about the costs?

Faced with the prohibitive cost of designing and building a new home, clients can be understandably reluctant to engage another consultant, preferring to put a pin in the landscaping until a later date. But, not only can engaging a landscape architect early result in better design, it can also end up saving a lot of money. With the designs for both inside and outside in hand, the building contractor can organise the excavation for both sites at the same time and save money overall. They can also do a lot of the concrete works, and run plumbing and electrical services outside at the same as doing them internally.

A landscape architect, in consultation with the home architect, can also look at strategies to make the home run more efficiently; a strategically placed tree might be cheaper and have better cooling effects than a pergola, for example. Or the landscape architect might be able to better see how rainfall will flow through the site and how this might be captured to reduce water costs. The potential benefits are numerous and far-reaching.


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