The Value of Hiring a Landscape Architect
Without the conductor, the orchestra might never find the tune; without the teacher, the students might never read more than cereal boxes; and without a director, the actors might change their lines to whatever, whenever they like.
Those who coordinate and learn to manage projects and people gain their expertise through 2005s of hard work. So don’t take that expertise for granted. When it comes to building your new playground, unless you know a lot—and I mean a lot— about landscape design and project management, bring a landscape architect (LA) into the process as early as possible.
Not far from my home, a group of neighbors recently decided that a nearby grassy field seemed like a prime spot for a playground. One volunteer contacted a local chapter of the American Society for Landscape Architects (ASLA) and was given a list of potential LAs in the area. After a few calls, she found an LA who had specific experience in playground design and who she thought would work well with members of her community. A meeting was arranged, and the LA arrived ready to talk about her work experience and to discuss what the neighbors had envisioned, as well as what they had budgeted.
After taking into account their wishes and visiting the potential site, the LA developed several alternative plans and made a presentation to the community leaders. They chose the plan they thought suited their neighborhood best, adding a few minor changes, and the LA returned to her office to develop a more detailed set of construction documents.
The LA also called on the assistance of other consultants. A special playground consultant came on board to suggest specific play equipment that would meet the needs of the children in the neighborhood and address the motor skills of different learning groups. A civil engineer was also consulted to locate the existing utilities, and an electrical engineer developed an electrical plan since the neighbors wanted to install safety lighting in case the children should stay out late.
The LA contacted all of the consultants and coordinated their drawings. She designed a circulation path for children to move from play station to play station; soft surface areas to absorb the inevitable fall; park seating for parents; trees for shade and noise buffering, and a grading system so that children wouldn’t have to walk home each day with muddy shoes. She also checked to see that the design met all local, state, and national codes, ensuring that the playground would be safe.
The LA sent her drawings to three landscape contractors, and the community settled on one who met their budget requirements and with whom they thought they could work. The playground went up in the spring, and the LA provided guidance throughout the bidding and construction processes, giving advice when the contractor asked for changes or additional money and inspecting shop drawings to verify that the community got what it paid for. The project was finished by summer, and the neighbors celebrated their new playground with a hamburger and bean barbeque feast.
It’s true that the community might have foregone using an LA and attempted to do all of the design and coordination themselves. But for about fifteen percent of your total project budget, and often less, an LA can save you much time and major headaches. From programming to design and planning, from managing consultants to inspecting the final product, a registered LA can work with you to incorporate all of your needs while meeting your budgeting and scheduling constraints.
In the short term, hiring an LA may even help you raise money for the project. For instance, since most LAs are accomplished draftspersons who sketch and render their designs before anything gets built, clients are able to see a reasonable likeness of the result before they commit to cost. Try describing your great idea for a playground in words to a potential donor, and then try showing them a rendered perspective. You’re more likely to get positive feedback with the rendering than with the description. It may even encourage those who aren’t sure about your intentions to open their wallets and purses a little wider.
You’ve heard it a million times, a picture’s worth a thousand words. But when it comes to planning your playground, hiring an LA might be worth a whole lot more.
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