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    July’s Agenda question

    Are design and build companies the future of landscaping?


    Ross Conquest, managing director, Conquest creative spaces 

    No and yes. What is the definition of a design and build company in our industry – what design packages are being offered? A hand drawing versus 3D renders with night visuals provides quite the comparison, so it’s interesting seeing how much of a service some companies are offering. There are a lot of viable set-ups in the industry. Landscape companies are running design studio’s in parallel with their installation team,some landscaping companies only do installations for designers and some even run their design studio separately to their installation companies. Our industry constantly evolves and we are all in it together as a team. That’s what’s key to successful design and build projects, regardless of who the principle designer is. Whether it’s in-house or not, it’s a process and one that should be respected and charged for with expectations met.

    Andrew Wilson, director, London college of garden design

    Some clients might prefer a ‘one stop  shop’ but most need to know they have a competitive price. If all landscapers were design and build, then that may be more easily obtained. For the landscaper, we work with many who appreciate the independence of the designer who may bring more challenging work to the table. For landscapers who appreciate design quality, working with independent designers would still appeal.For the designer, those who seek a quality of delivery would still look for build-only landscapers as a much closer working relationship would be possible. I have no great interest in working with landscapers who employ in-house designers and therefore provide production drawings. For us, that’s a really important part of the overall design delivery and how we control quality. I definitely do not want to see design as a free service or loss leader.

    Emily Barnes, garden design student, University of Sheffield

    In my opinion, no. From the point of view of a designer, I think it’s valuable to have a good relationship with a contracting company, but I think the two are very separate. They could and perhaps should be kept separate to keep the integrity of both services. I don’t know what the future will be but that’s my opinion at this point in time. As a garden design student, I’m still only new to the industry, but from a design point of view, the design quality isn’t always as good as it could be, and that is something I wouldn’t want to see happen in the industry. Maybe if it’s a large company that has a specialist design side on board, then perhaps it would work. For small companies, I think it’s certainly better to keep it separate.

    Caroline Wasmuth, director, Ryan Alexander and Associates 

    I truly understand that when people are growing a business, they need to wear lots of different hats, which is what we have done at Ryan Alexander and Associates. But, as time goes on and you want to refine your company and really look at what you’re trying to bring to the industry I think you need to really look at what you want to specialise in. I would say that with any industry though, as time goes on and with your own personal development, you want to look at what you want to focus on. From our perspective, we know what our key strength is and that’s what we want to bring to the table. You really do need to look at your team and ask yourself what you’re trying to do. I think early on you’ve got to do everything, but people need to think very carefully when they say landscape design and build: can they actually design? It’s a whole different process that I think a lot of people just decide to chuck out there. There’s an enormous difference between working with someone like Ryan Alexander and a designer who is on a higher level. Even though Ryan has been to college and is a really respectable and talented designer, you’re dealing with a completely different market.

    Chris Chippendale, landscape architect and acting ecology manager, Ground control

    Ground Control operates both through traditional mechanisms and design and build, of which procurement on a design and build basis is becoming ever more popular. In my opinion it provides great opportunities for designers, contractors and clients. Traditionally, design and build was largely centred within the play company and domestic market, however, commercial clients are increasingly choosing this approach, seeking a ‘one stop shop’. This gives greater flexibility, reduces risk and has ease of delivery. It is seen particularly on local authority and large, complex, high-end schemes. For me, collaboration is a key element to the success of design and build. This was the heart of our recent Children’s Garden project at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, breaking down the traditional divides of designer, contractor and client, and focusing on a single project team ethos.This benefits the smooth-running of these projects, and results with designers and contractors drawing upon the experience in the creation of a shared vision, that is buildable, and executing the scheme with fine details to high quality. I think it’s these benefits that will see a rise in the number of projects delivered by design and build companies, promoting an increased unity and collaborative way of working.

    Lee Bestall, managing director and founder, Bestall & Co 

    For the domestic market in which we operate, I’d say yes. I think they probably are. Although, I believe there will always be people who want to do one or the other. For me though, there are two significant differences I feel I need to clarify, design and build and build and design.The former with a designer at the helm, and the latter a landscaper, and I think when you view an image of a finished garden, you can usually tell who created which one. A designer who also builds gardens, will naturally push boundaries, experiment with difficult-to-source materials, and their gardens will generally have a more plant-like feel, sexier lighting and greater atmosphere. In contrast to a more hardscape lead landscape with less curves, more widely available materials and limited plant choice.The diversity of both is great, as both have their own market, and obviously I’m generalising here, but I definitely think there’s something in it.

    Next month: Should designers be encouraging clients to have more naturalistic gardens?

    Have your say: [email protected]

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