When to Engage a Landscape Architect in Conceptual Design

06 May, 2021

If you’re delaying on engaging a landscape architect until after site design is complete, you could be missing out on valuable opportunities to maximize return on investment. Landscape architects have a unique perspective on the end-user experience, project timeline, and adapting to challenging natural features on site. Engaging a landscape architect in the beginning stage of the project, when there is more time to incorporate their ideas, can positively impact your overall product.

Here are five situations when it may be most advantageous to get a landscape architect involved during conceptual site design.

1. When Your Development Needs a Competitive Edge

Whether you develop multifamily communities, retail centers, or office parks, you likely face marketplace competition. Unique amenity spaces and an experiential-based design can help to set your site apart and create a sense of place. A landscape architect engaged early in the design process can collaborate with your civil engineer and architect to generate new ideas for your space. When their designs are incorporated early in the process, owners and developers have more time to market these design differentiators as a competitive advantage.

For the development of a multifamily project in North Carolina, Bohler’s civil engineering team brought in Director of Planning and Landscape Architecture Steve Singleton, RLA early in the process. The developer wanted a unique and luxurious amenity space that would give them an edge in the competitive market. By getting involved early, Steve worked with the architect’s building design to create a bold concept for the pool, patio, and clubhouse. His design was intended to create higher demand for the units and thus allow the developer to set higher rents.

When to Engage a Landscape Architect in Conceptual Design

06 May, 2021

2. When Natural Elements Are a Challenge for Site Design

Landscape architects have a unique ability to see the possibilities that a site’s natural environment may have to offer. At the conceptual stage, creative ideas that incorporate existing site elements can be brought to life more easily, before they’re removed or more permanent structures are set around them. Additionally, if the design team is working around challenging natural features, a landscape architect can collaborate to identify a cost-effective solution to keep them on site.

At the Cape Arundel Cottage Preserve, Bohler Landscape Architect Project Manager Leslie Fanger, RLA walked the undeveloped site with her client. Looking beyond the rocky hills and muddy ponds in front of her, Leslie saw opportunities to leverage natural elements and integrate them into her designs. Leslie’s early involvement on the site walk set the tone for critical site elements like the entrance, community building, and common spaces within each neighborhood.

During the site walk, Leslie identified smooth ledge half buried by dirt and rocks.
Leslie found a way to incorporate the natural element into her design.
The ledge was transformed into a flowing stream and waterfall.
Leslie’s waterfall and receiving pool were designed to complement the resort’s pool.

When to Engage a Landscape Architect in Conceptual Design

06 May, 2021

3. When the Schedule Is Tight

Speed-to-market is the driving force behind many land development projects. When faced with an aggressive entitlement timeline, engaging a landscape architect to work concurrently and collaboratively with the engineering team can streamline review and approval of plans. When the overall project schedule is tight, a landscape architect’s early involvement can result in streamlined construction sequencing.

In a departure from the typical design schedule, Bohler Landscape Architect D. Travis North, RLA became involved early in the design of The Station at Willow Grove. His team prepared conceptual designs, streetscape details, and designs for other external features during the site plan development process. This enabled the project team to expedite approvals and secure permits quicker because the landscape design features were incorporated into the approved land development plan set.

Bohler’s early involvement in the design also helped streamline construction. Because we were able to consult on utility placement, our landscape architecture team designed their scope so that landscape features were properly fed and that there were no conflicts with other proposed elements.

In addition, the landscape design was approved by the client at the same time the construction drawings were approved. This provided the contractor with clear direction on sequencing and enabled construction of the pool and other concrete elements prior to the buildings being constructed. Without our team’s early design and approvals, construction of those elements could have been much more complicated.

4. When You Need to Build Community or Stakeholder Support

Without visuals, effectively communicating design ideas to non-technical stakeholders and communities can be challenging. Engaging a landscape architect to provide hand sketches or computer-generated 3-dimensional models can help to illustrate what a new development will look like. By using these images, developers can gain stakeholder consensus or bolster public opinion over a new project.

Though the jurisdiction supported The Station at Willow Grove in Willow Grove, PA, there was still some uncertainty within the community as to the final appearance of the project. Bohler’s landscape architecture team worked with the architect on detailed renderings that helped ease community concerns and generate desire and excitement for the project.

To generate excitement for the project, Bohler’s landscape architecture team provided hand sketches, renderings, and design inspiration boards to illustrate their ideas.

When to Engage a Landscape Architect in Conceptual Design

06 May, 2021

5. When End-User Experience Is a Priority

Creating an unparalleled end-user experience starts in the conceptual phase. While other design professionals may have the end-user in mind, a landscape architect brings a unique perspective. Envisioning themselves as the end-user, they design not only for function, but for aesthetics and to create a sense of place. Including a landscape architect at the conceptual phase, or even sooner, during the master planning process, enables the design team to look at the end-user experience from all angles.

Bohler’s landscape architecture team is working with the developer of a large mixed-use project in Virginia to strategize layout and create an exceptional experience for future tenants and residents. Bringing the unique perspective of the end-user, we consider how the site will look once constructed and how it will feel to live, work, and/or shop there. Bohler considers elements such as apartment and office window views; the look and feel of internal roadways and walking paths; and the consumer’s overall experience entering, navigating, using, and exiting the site.

Our team uses tablets to hand-sketch renderings of what the final product could look like, to help illustrate the plans to stakeholders.

When to Engage a Landscape Architect in Conceptual Design

06 May, 2021

A Better Bottom Line

In the conceptual site design phase, it’s more beneficial for a landscape architect to collaborate with the engineering team, positively impact the project, and incorporate their ideas for a better end-product. With an integrated design approach, landscape architects can help the project team develop creative and cost-saving solutions to site challenges and can ultimately give your project a competitive edge.

By looking at the site from an end-user perspective, landscape architects are a valuable asset and can help you identify and act on opportunities for a more successful project and possibly create a higher return on investment.

Looking for a competitive edge? Contact Bohler’s landscape architecture team to get started.

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