Commercial landscape design bid

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by paponte, Aug 18, 2003.

  1. paponte

    paponte LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,366

    I have recently met with a large building firm, that wants a design bid for 3 buildings they currently own. I looked at the buildings with the property manager, and he briefly explained what needed to be "re done". It seemed he was in a rush, and I told him I would not take up too much of his time, to just explain what he wanted and I could look around the properties myself.

    When I called him back to find out what kind of budget he was looking at for the buildings, he told me that was not necessary to know at this point. He just wanted to know how much I would charge to construct a design, and plans for the property. I thought this to be sort of strange. Normally I look at properties and submit a proposal including design, installation, etc.

    I just wanted to know if anyone else had experience in doing larger commercial installations, and if this was a normal procedure. As far as the total job, I was estimating 50-75K per building. Have you ever just sold your design? If so how did you charge? I was thinking just estimating my time at the site, and at the comp. I am not sure I want to sell my ideas to someone else. This is on a large scale to me, and would like some "professional" opinions... not "I installed a flowerbed once". Thanks for the input.:cool:
  2. bam

    bam LawnSite Senior Member
    from .
    Messages: 261

    so the company is looking for a landscape architect to prepare the plans. then they will probably put your plans out to bid and select the lowest bid or give it to their established landscape contractor. or at least that's what it sounds like. their looking for a competent person to spend their time to come up with the blueprints and plant list.
  3. paponte

    paponte LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,366

    Yes, exactly. But how am I supposed to come up with a plant list etc., if they are not willing to give me an estimated budget? Even if I were to sit down and design a planting scheme regardless of budget, what should I use as my base for rates to charge? Time at the site taking measurements. Time at the computer designing (CAD, images, etc.) Any additional drawings, as needed.

    I am not a landscape architecture, and made that clear to the gentleman.
  4. fblandscape

    fblandscape Banned
    Messages: 776

    I would say that roughly $75 - $100 per man hour logged while doing this work is a low, but fair price. So if you are going to the site and shooting elevations you get your rate, if you are in the studio designing you get your rate, etc. What is the situation as far as liability goes with this? Will you be held responsible if your design fails? What I mean by that is; if you select the wrong plants for the site, if you have the elevations set so that they have a flooding problem, etc.
  5. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,774

    There are several ways to charge for design work. The important thing is to spell out what exactly you are doing for the $ if it is a contract price.

    A pretty easy and clear way of doing it to cover your tail is to give a price to do a plan for a specific lot with one revision included. Then clearly state that additional work will be billed at $x per hour. That way they know what to expect and if they get drifty on you the compensation is there.

    I think that you will find that landscaping is valued more in some commercial development. This is especially true with condos and appartments in the higher end area.

    Design what you think is right for the project. Throw in the ammenities that are appropriate for the project. Don't make any particular item crucial to your design.

    When you meet for the revision, they will make it clear what has to be cut out or added. The important thing to them is that they did not waste time dicussing details with you that they figure you can figure out. You come in with a pretty complete design that takes only a few minutes to discuss revisions. It is a lot easier than dealing with a homeowner that wants to go over 3,000 clippings from magazines and different hues of flower color.

    A lot of what you know feels intuitive, but there usually is a sound reason why you put a certain thing in a certain place. Know those reasons and be sure to communicate them, so they understand. If they see that you are confident they respect your suggestions and let you lead the way.

    It is much easier to do what you want to do and have the client react to it. That goes for residential as well (especially).

    PS. You need to be very well respected or extremely efficient to command $75-$100 an hour for design work. I think it would be reaching a bit to try and get that as a contractor as most LA's can be had for that and many for less.
  6. paponte

    paponte LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,366

    fblandscape, without a doubt I would be consulting with a lawyer to cover my butt. As I stated, this is a very large corp., but I have no doubt I can handle the work. This will however be 3 of the biggest designs I have done yet. I pretty much see it as "the next step" for my company, but of course don't want it to turn into a bad learning experience. The company has viewed my work, and was very impressed. That's how they came across our company. As you stated, also I was thinking of charging hourly. As AGLA stated, I believe there will be alot of ground that I will not cover going the hourly rate.

    AGLA... You have brought up a couple of things I thought of as far as changes, etc. I just want to make sure all angles are covered so when they want to make changes I am covered. You think $75-$100hr is too much to charge? I thought that would be fair.

    I am clearly able to design the property for them, but without input from the client, nor a budget I can just see more room for problems. The point you made "Don't make any particular item crucial to your design" made alot of sense to me. This way if they do decide to change anything, it doesn't leave me back to square one scratching my head again.

    I agree that commercial is ALOT easier than dealing with a small scale residential, where details are crucial to the customer. I just want to make sure I will not be getting screwed by a large company that deals with this all the time. The point of including 1 revision, then stating an hourly charge thereafter is a very good idea. If in fact they choose me to do the design, I also felt most likely I would have to be available before, during, or after the actual installation to be on site.

    Again as stated, this will be my first time selling just my "ideas". I am used to getting the whole job, and being there from start to finish. Any input is greatly appreciated. Thanks for the replies already.
  7. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,774

    Get whatever you can for an hourly rate, but be careful not to price yourself out of the market. You really want to land the construction part of the job. There are others out there that will do the design cheap to get their foot in the door. It is a marketing tool.

    As a contractor, you are in a position to sell bigger and better construction jobs by having an active design aspect. You want to make sure that you value your design, but not to the point that they go elsewhere.

    Charging a flat price and allowing one meeting and revision if necessary is a very functional policy for a design/build. The client is prequalified because they are making at least a small investment in your design. You get the chance to give it the effort that you feel is right without someone feeling like you are screwing them by leading down the wrong road while racking up a bill. They get a chance at seeing something that really wows them while still having the freedom of making changes without consequenses. Usually this really stramlines the process and only a few minor revisions are made. The client gets comfortable with you and your vision and becomes much more committed to you than a less intimate bidder.

    Knowing an hourly fee is going to rack up after the first revision really gets people focused and decisions get made very efficiently. If you get a PITA client, they tend to focus better when the meter is running (or more likely, before the meter is running). You also know if you want to work for them or not before you are committed to a construction project.

    Settle on the design first and then price it out. If you are over budget, make sure that they know that they can use smaller plants, less of them, etc, ... but be firm that the price you gave is THE price for the job as you spec'd it. Never line item your proposal - always group plants, hardscapes, etc, .. or by area. Don't give the opportunity for them to rework your proposal. They try, but will always give up if you hold your ground. It also lets them know that you did not throw up a price to see if they will bite. It actually builds trust and respect.
  8. paponte

    paponte LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,366

    That definitely sounds like the way to go. Allow 1 revision, then state there will be an hourly fee after that point for any further changes.

    Yes, I would like to get the install as well. I have never just sold a design. The real money is in the install, and what I am used to doing. I just don't want to screw anything up, since I am not an architect. :(
  9. fblandscape

    fblandscape Banned
    Messages: 776

    AGLA, I know guys in their early 20's with college degrees who are gettin $75 per hour to design. They just have landscape contracting degrees though. However, those guys are also known to overembelish quite a bit.
  10. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,774

    That is true, but to be competitive in design/build you can not be seen as an over the top designer that charges a lot.

    When you make a living on design only, you want to be seen as "exclusive". You have to charge a lot as it is the only source of income. Your clients are much more limited, but you can only produce so much. You don't need volume.

    A contractor can charge a lot per hour for plans if he can pop them out fast. I suspect that is the case with the guys you mentioned. If they are doing a ell drafted, well thought out design on a typical $0.5- 1M home it should take about 20-30 hours. If they are whipping out contractor "designs" it could take 3-10 hours. Three to eight hundred is very tolerable for most people. It is very viable to get $75-$100 per hour.

    Once basic layout and planting plans start getting above $1,500, the typical client starts having a problem with that from my experience. I think that the hours vs. the rate is probably not important to the client if the bottom line is below $1,500.

    As a contractor that needs to be fed work, it is important that you are perceived as reasonably priced when it comes to design work or you shrink your market of potential clients.

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