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Working With a Landscape Architect

Dreaming about your ultimate outdoor environment is an exciting process. Determining how to achieve your dreams, however, can be daunting. If you are interested in a professionally designed landscape environment, or if there are safety, environmental, or construction issues—you may need the services of a landscape architect. Landscape architects are licensed professionals that manage projects concerning the use and design of outdoor spaces and the land.

Landscape architecture is a broad profession that includes the analysis, planning, design, management and stewardship of built and natural environments. In addition to designing residential projects, landscape architects may specialize in parks and recreation; urban design, city and regional planning; transportation and roadways; resort planning; historic preservation; landscape conservation and reclamation; corporate and commercial projects; and much more. Landscape architects often work closely with other design professionals including architects, engineers, and planners.

Because of the broad scope of the profession and the diverse specializations, it is wise to research the scope and strengths of various landscape firms.

What Services Do Landscape Architects Provide?

Landscape architects are professionally trained and licensed within their state to assist clients with:

  • Site and environmental analysis
  • Site suitability studies
  • Developing alternative land use strategies
  • Producing conceptual and master plan documents
  • Providing construction documents and details
  • Supervising the construction and bidding process for contractors
  • Landscape management and maintenance plans
  • Producing planting plans and specifications
  • Developing irrigation plans
  • Cost estimating and contract administration
  • Protecting environmentally sensitive areas
  • Protecting watershed and water quality
  • Solving site drainage or hydrology problems
  • Providing designs that comply with local or state regulations and codes

Where Do I Start?

You will want to determine the scope of the services that are required before you engage a landscape professional. Here are a few items to consider before you proceed:

What is my dream?

Similar to a financial plan or business plan, a landscape plan is a strategy towards an ultimate goal. What are the ultimate possibilities for your family’s lifestyle needs? Are there immediate needs for patio spaces, privacy, and for solving site problems? Are there long-term wishes for a swimming pool, a mother-in-law’s cottage, or a greenhouse? A well-designed landscape plan provides the blueprint for landscape places that may be developed and implemented over time. Also, be realistic with how much time and effort you can devote to maintaining your new landscape.

What is my budget?

It is not unusual for design and installation costs for built landscapes to average around 10% of the construction or property values. Considering that improved landscapes can contribute up to 15% of the home resale value, it is a worthwhile investment. Provide the landscape professional a figure that stays comfortably within your budget. Remember, you can always implement phases of the plan over time.

What is my timing?

Often, landscape architects are brought in after the building is already constructed. Mistakes in the building design or construction process can be avoided by bringing the landscape professional on board in the early planning phases.

How Do I Find a Landscape Architect?

Many landscape professionals and firms belong to their national association, The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). Their Web site, www.asla.org, provides examples of the work of landscape architects and a list of licensed professionals by state. There are also state chapters of ASLA with Web sites that may provide further contact information. As with any professional service, word of mouth by satisfied clients provides the best form of advertising. For more information, visit www.asla.org.


These factsheets were written by Robert F. Brzuszek, Assistant Extension Professor, The Department of Landscape Architecture, Mississippi State University.

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