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Everything Starts with an Idea— The Design Process

Everything starts with an idea, if you think about it, this is very true. Nothing happens unless someone or something has an idea, thought, feeling, etc. about it first.

Planning and designing are the first steps in making a thought into a physical reality. A completed design itself is no longer just a thought, but a physical object (even if only in ink and paper).

All clients can take their thoughts and commit them to paper to create their own unique design. While you don't necessarily need the help of a professional company like ours, we do have the advantage of having the knowledge of different materials, plants, construction methods and a creative ability that is honed by experience.

A good design is well worth the cost. Creating a landscape design is especially helpful for you as a homeowner or company when the project has complicated features and sometimes mandatory when presenting designs for permits and to homeowner associations. Some commercial projects have huge sets of plans that cost many millions to create, but are still worth a fraction of the cost of confusion that would result without them.

Designs are valuable not only in the amount of money saved by not having to redo things, but also in the personal enjoyment you will get by having your project come out exactly how you envisioned it.

When signing up for a design, there are a few steps we go through to create the final product.

Step 1: Measure the yard and determine the scope of work that needs to be done. For complex yards with heavy elevation changes and/or legal requirements, we may need to have a professional survey company come in to handle this part.

Step 2: Meet with the designer and go over everything you want to see in the design. This is the time to go over your wish list of items and let the designer know what your desires are for your project.

Step 3: Provide a budget- it is important to give the designer a sense of your budget so they can use this information in discussing and designing your project. Sometimes it could feel funny/uncomfortable to throw out a number before a bid has been provided. You may be understandably afraid the company will take advantage and price things higher than normal to profit from your budget when you may have gotten it cheaper without letting it be known.

We can tell you with 99% certainty this will likely never happen, no matter which contractor you went with (as long as you're going through a licensed professional contractor). In all our years of experience, it is rare for a project to come in under a client's initial cost desire. This is because construction is generally more expensive than the vast majority may assume. We are contractors and sometimes we are still surprised by some of the costs of certain materials, etc. However, this doesn't mean we can't massage your project to get it within a range you feel comfortable with. Knowing your target budget becomes an essential part of the design/planning process.

Step 4: Complete the conceptual design, during this step the designers take all the information- measurements, desires, etc. and put it all together into a beautiful drawing. They will be using the information your provide along with their own experience and creativity to provide what they feel is a nice product.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Everyone has a different viewpoint and you may or may not initially agree with the designer and/or your partners decisions, that is fine. Our goal is to work with you to create something that pleases you, even if it doesn't happen in the first proposal. We want you to be happy, but you will only be happy once you view a design in a positive light and like what you see. Often we must massage things to move closer to your tastes. A thing to remember though, is that the designers are professionals who have many years of experience creating lasting projects. It's a good idea to keep this in mind when decided what to agree or disagree with.

The design stage is a lengthy process and is often not to everyone's liking on the first go. As mentioned above, changes usually take place before we get it just right. Visualizing your project on paper makes it a lot more real and can lead to changes in opinion on certain aspects of the job.

There are different types of drawings that may need to be completed during the creation of your outdoor landscape project. The one we have been discussing is a conceptual drawing, it's purpose is to give a concept of what your yard will look like. It entails showing where items are located and how they will fit together from a broad view and can include plant layouts and lighting details.

Some parts of your project may require construction or engineering drawings. Construction drawings show how something is going to be built. This usually includes exact dimensions, materials and spacing. Engineering drawings also show how something is built, but often will also have math calculations on them to show why and how the constructed items will work. Construction and engineering drawings are needed on a case by case basis and are considered out of the scope of landscape conceptual design.

Step 5: Time to approve your conceptual design, if you are satisfied with the drawing. This means you will also get all your bids and pricing from the approved drawing. If you make changes later in the process, it will change the scope of work and project costs. It is best to make sure you are happy with the layout before bidding it.

At this stage, Picture Build Landscape will also provide a bid for the work. Our bids are in menu item format so you can make some changes to the scope of work a lot easier. We may also provide you with different options (like material choices) in the bid with associated costs.

Changes After Approval

It may be necessary to make changes to the plan after you have approved it, this can occur for many reasons. One major cause could be when there are permits involved and the city wants changes made to the plan. This is something we run into often, some changes they require are minor, while others are large. An example would be the city telling us we need to completely move the location of a swimming pool, outdoor kitchen and other outdoor structures, etc. In some cases, like specialized zones, the city has disapproved major parts of the design and thus defeating the original purpose of the landscape project.

In the greater Los Angeles area, there are many independent cities, each with their own permitting departments and codes. It is impossible for any designer/contractor to be aware of all the codes in every city. We know a lot, but we still run into issues. Changes to the plan due to city requirement is something you will have to be willing to experience and depending on the circumstances may cause additional fees.

Mid-Construction Changes

We always want the plans to reflect what we are going to build, as the crews on site refer to them during their construction. If there are minor changes, we can make notes on the plans on the job site so we don't have to completely redo them. But if there are several changes, we may have to redraw your plans and send them our to the crews.

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