What Does a Landscape Architect Do?

A majority of people can agree that curb appeal is important to most homeowners and significantly impacts the value of a home. Landscaping can help make your property feel inviting, attractive, and can be practical when it comes to environmental concerns.

Not many people are aware how to assemble flora that creates a perfect landscape whichis not only aesthetically pleasing, but is functional as well. Nor do they know who they should actually call. I caught up with JR Kramer, owner of Remark Landscape Architecture, to find out what a landscape architect does, why you need one, and how using one can save you money, time, and heartache down the road.

To start, one may ask “Do I really need a landscape architect and what types of projects do they usually work on?” JR clarifies that landscape architects provide services in a wide variety of areas from residential design, master planning, urban planning, campus design, as well as green roof design. Bottom line- if you’re designing an outdoor environment, you need a landscape architect. They can design outdoor living spaces, such as courtyards, patios, driveways or pool houses, and so much more. One example of a landscape architect’s particular skill set is how JR worked with a client who was adding a garage and wanted to make sure it sited correctly. JR was hired to provide a site plan for the garage and guest parking and a landscape master plan that integrated the new garage and parking with future patio and gardens.

Your next question might be “how is a landscape architect’s work different from that of a landscape designer or lawn care specialist?” First things first: A landscape architect has a college degree in landscape architecture, has at least two years of training under the guidance of a licensed landscape architect, and has taken a rigorous national certification exam to ensure competency to practice landscape architecture. Pretty intense, but very important! This education and training qualify him or her to be able to take on larger and more complicated projects that include small structures, detailed hardscape designs, and drainage solutions such as rain gardens. As opposed to a garden designer, who may not have to have formal training, a college degree in design or horticulture, or even have a certificate. Keep in mind that basically anyone can call themselves a landscape designer in South Carolina but to be a landscape architect you must be licensed. A lawn care specialist provides services retailed to cutting grass, fertilizing, and maintaining other aspects of the landscape. It’s always vital to ensure that a lawn care professional has proper training as well as certificates for fertilizationand any other kinds of chemical installation.

Now you see how important it is to use a landscape architect for your hardscaping and outdoor design needs. However, is it worth the cost? Speaking of cost, how much are we talking here?

JR explains that Fees range widely, but a good rule of thumb is for a fee to be 10% of the construction cost and up to 20% for a smaller complicated project. A typical landscape master plan starts at $2,500. Again, there are a lot of variables, such as the client’s specific budget and base plan (survey, plat, the site measurements), the construction details needed, varying degrees of required research, how many concepts to be provided, and the number of client meetings. Another aspect to keep in mind is the general timeline for your project. You were already wondering that, anyway, right? JR postulates that the normal process right now, from time of initial meeting to final design, takes anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks depending on the size of the project, review process (HOA, ARB), and the promptness of client review and feedback.

So you decided to build a new home or office building. Congrats! But the decisions don’t stop there. Should you wait until construction is finished before planning out your landscaping? JR recommends a homeowner should hire a landscape architect as soon as possible. JR explains, “It’s important to bring on a landscape architect to help set budgets, provide feedback in house placement, drive and walkway design, preserving trees (or taking out trees that will impede construction), and provide grading and drainage plans.” Also keep in mind that if a landscape architect is hired early enough, a client can roll fees into a loan to ensure all costs are covered.

Aside from planting the usual grassy lawn, perhaps a few shrubs or flowers, and maybe an occasional stone path, is there really much else to landscaping? You betcha! There is a lot more to landscaping than meets the eye. JR notes that outdoor living space which incorporate native or low maintenance plantings and simple clean lines in the design currently trending in the Lowcountry. Clearly JR can demonstrate how important landscape architects are and would be happy to help you with your next landscaping project. Learn more about JR and Remark by visiting remarkstudiollc.com or by calling his office at 843.952.7817. JR also welcomes questions and project ideas by email at studio@remarkstudiollc.com.