~ LANDSCAPE / SITE DESIGN ~
We are a multidiscipline firm, practicing both architecture and landscape architecture. As a result, our scope is broader than most. We are aware of the integrated role between interior and exterior spaces, in context of the larger part of the design of the house and its environs.
I. How we work - The Design Process
1. INTERVIEW - The client identifies their goals and their budget. The landscape architect discusses cost/feasibility in a general way, and follows with a proposal for professional service. Obtaining an accurate and current survey of the property is essential to move forward.
2. PRELIMINARY DESIGN - Upon being selected, the next step is to inventory and map the site property, using the survey as a base, enlarged typically to 1/8" scale. Most towns require zone calculations and a formal application for the landscape plan. This is needed in order to show that proposed paving and other hard construction items (pools, water features, retaining walls, etc.) meet the town coverage requirements. As zoning laws have become more stringent in most towns, this becomes an essential part of the process.
Sometimes an engineer is required for this part of the application, usually where substantial soil movement is proposed or there is re-grading of the property. I will advise accordingly.
Secondly, an inventory of existing field conditions is performed. The design stage needs an accurate base of information to work from.
3. CONCEPT DESIGN - For simple projects, the design may come together in the first concept sketch. For more complex projects, the design may go through a couple of evolutions.
We pride ourselves on our communication skills to arrive at the optimum solution quickly.
The concept plan is the first drawing presented, and includes layout of walks, patios, plant beds and other design features, as well as some plant material choices and a general plant list.
Often,we suggest that the client visit a nursery, to assist in their understanding of the general plant list that is recommended.
At times, the first concept plan, which has some detail, is submitted to contractors for bids, and is adequate for construction. Some projects, which are simple may require some minor alterations. Larger or more complex projects often require a more evolved and detailed plan, requiring drawing refinements, added specifications, as well as dimensions, notes, and other details. For this reason, we allow a range of time allocation and fee for this phase.
Following the presentation of the concept plan, and approval of the client, I will review the plan with at least one selected contractor to review project cost, prior to a formal bid. This allows for any adjustments that are required for the final design.
4. FINAL DESIGN- LARGER PROJECTS - With projects where engineering is required, the final design is submitted to the selected engineer for his work to be performed. The engineer provides soil movement studies, the design of retaining walls over 3 feet, or grading and drainage plans.
The architect gives the engineer direction on any design sensitive items, reviews the engineers work, and checks for consistency with the LA Plan.
5. PLANTING PLAN - The final Design is then suitable for final planting plan. With final engineering, the planting design is revise and finalized, including specifications and details for planting. Projects vary on how involved or complex this phase will be, and so there is a range of time allowance for this phase.
II. Project Management
With larger projects, and where there is more sensitivity to the final plantings, project observation is important. The aspect of the design is discussed in the interview and time is allowed for field observation as is appropriate.
Some of the factors that would benefit from the architect's attention would be-review of plant conditions purchased from the nursery to ensure healthy and appropriate plant material, grouping and arranging of plants, proper spacing, proper planting procedures, and changes of plants based on availability.
While a good contractor will know proper planting procedures, and may have an advanced understanding of plants and design, it is important for the intent of our original design to be respected and carried out in the field. We provide a minimum of two visits to the site during the construction and planting phase. This is one of several reasons for the need of a good working relationship with the selected contractor (See below contractor selection).
III. Fee Structure
Our office works on a range of fee, based on a projected amount of time estimated, billed at the hourly rate of $150/ hour. As a general rule the allowance translates into roughly 3-5% of the total project cost for a full service design, which includes some limited supervision. There is a typically a minimum fee of $2,000. It should be noted that we review each project in terms of its complexity which can vary depending on the nature and scope of work. A work agreement allows for a fee range (minimum and maximum) based on the time we estimate that project will take.
No discussion of fees is complete without a discussion of value. A comprehensive and well thought out plan brings creativity to the design, and will translate into overall value to the project.
The result is more than just the sum of parts.
Why hire us as landscape architect?
Like other aspects of the home, most clients are not aware of what makes for a successful landscape project. Among the successful ingredients would be a creative vision, the collaboration of designer, client, and contractor, and adequate and appropriate means to do the project.
The industry standard for the landscape architecture is a design- build arrangement, with the architect having partial ownership of a contracting company. Our approach differs in that we provide an independent and objective relation of the designer to the contractor. We feel that the client's interest can be better served. Should the client choose a contractor not from our recommended list, we typically will carry the project through the concept phase, only. The client has the freedom to choose, but is encouraged to work with a known contractor.
Are we right for you?
You can see our work by visiting our web site (www.petercooperarchitects.com) or we can set up an interview to show you our portfolio. At your request, we can provide a list of projects and clients. We look forward to hearing from you and taking the next step.
B.S. of Plant & Soil Science, University of Vermont, 1978
B.S. Landscape Architecture, City College of New York, 1985.
B. Architecture, City College, 1986
MRP-Master of Regional and Environmental Planning, University of
Contractor Selection & Our role:
Architecture vs. Landscape Architecture
Landscape Architecture differs significantly from architecture, in many respects. The execution of the design requires considerable knowledge not only by the architect, but the landscape contractor. Many crucial decisions are made in the field. The contractor's expertise is important for plant selection at the nursery, proper planting procedure and soil preparation, and consideration for proper positioning, spacing, and grouping of plants, as well as the follow up for a watering schedule. Both the designer and the contactor must be on the same page, for the process to work well. The role of field decisions takes on greater importance with Landscape Architecture, than with Architecture.
For this reason, we have found that the process works best when we are working with a contractor we know. We have long standing relationships with a few landscape contractors.
We are good team players. I have found that my education and practical experience provides an excellent complement to the experienced contractor in the execution of the design.