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Design questions

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by GodsMan, Jun 16, 2006.

  1. GodsMan

    GodsMan LawnSite Member
    Messages: 21

    :confused: I met with the President of a homeowners association today and we are meeting with the board of directors on Wednesday to discuss renovating the front entry landscape that was installed by the homebuilders. This is my first commercial project and I would like to do a great presentation. As a designer what questions would you ask them and what information would you solicit in order to provide a well thought out design within their budget?

    FATWEASEL LawnSite Senior Member
    from NC
    Messages: 326

    #1. Goals--Find out what their objectives are in renovating their entrance...ie...update to current styles, simplify maintenance, increase safety/visibility, add color, or just a complete overhaul.

    #2. Budget--All things will ultimately revolve around this....what materials can be used, how much can be renovated. Under promise>Over deliver!

    I would be prepared with some preliminary ideas and approximate costs in my notes to offer to the officers. You may get there and find that they haven't discussed this at all and each have their own idea of what it should look like.

    Get the basics down like hardscapes desired like wood, brick or stone signage, water features, lighting, fencing. Softscapes like trees...shade or ornamental, evergreen or deciduous, shrubs...formal or natural, perennials or annuals.

    Just remember to take good notes. Maybe even record the meeting for reference. Give them a time frame in which they can expect to see something from you. Good communication is key but remember that YOU are the professional. Don't let them make bad decisions just because they are paying for it.

    Just my 2 cents. Good luck!:)
  3. GodsMan

    GodsMan LawnSite Member
    Messages: 21

    Thanks Fatweasel. This is new to me to meet with a group of people with different likes and dislikes and develop a landscape design. It seemed so much easier to just install what a homeowner wanted or install a predetermined plan. I am still developing the artistic part of my mind. When I discuss a landscape feature I normally come from a functional view rather than form. It is challenging but I look forward to it.:weightlifter:
  4. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,774

    Form follows function, so you are not on the wrong track.

    HOA's are tough because you have a lot of different agendas and people who have power struggles with others on the board. I try to keep them from getting too detailed too quickly because that gives them more to argue among themselves about.

    The first thing is to bring some of those functions you mentioned to the table. Things like maintenance and visibility are good places to start getting a consensus with. If it is a seasonal community, you might suggest that seasonal color should be a priority. Also take a good look at the rest of the place and see what is looking good and what is consistant throughout the development. It is easier for people to feel comfortable building upon success than to totally change styles in one area. The more you demonstrate your awareness as to what is going on throughout the development, the more confidence it builds in them. That gets you a lot farther along than funky new ideas will most of the time.
  5. GodsMan

    GodsMan LawnSite Member
    Messages: 21

    Good suggestion AGLA. I have been through the development and most homes range between 100k-200k. No really elaborate landscape and their are probably only 100 homes in this community.

    What types of pitfalls should I be aware of such as possible legal issues or ordinances such as hiding the big ugly power box in the middle of the beds. What about landscape lighting or irrigation issues that I may not know offhand? For instance, the brilliant LA decided that an irrigation system was needed on a brick island with no grass and only signage. Yet there they are, several irrigation heads!:dizzy:

    The development is fairly new and the homeowners want this whole embarrassment rectified and it is my priviledge to aid in their recovery:weightlifter:
  6. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,774

    I would suggest meeting with the top dog of the HOA (or someone else in the fold) and walking around with him/her to find out the issues ahead of time. That will go a long way in knowing what they like and don't like as well as finding out why certain things are the way they are.

    You mentioned a brick island with irrigation. I'd want to know the story behind that before I suggested replanting it. Obviously, there was a design screw up. But, what that was is unclear. It could have been a planting area that was getting run over all of the time. Obviously the irrigation should have been removed, if that were the case. Could it be a place where container plantings make sense? Look at it and try to ask yourself why this might have happened, if no one tells you.

    There are setbacks to things such as fire hydrants and you should always consider access to such things as electric transformers.

    An early walk through with a ranking member of the HOA is the place to start.

    Don't be afraid to tell them straight out that you expect them to have some consensus amongst themselves and to give you some general directives to work from. After that, you can work out details, meet with them again to revise them. You can't be investing this time for free because working for a group of people is way more time consuming than working for individuals.
  7. John B Laidlaw

    John B Laidlaw LawnSite Member
    Messages: 95

    A couple of things that were not mentioned that may be helpful.

    Ask for the HOA's by-laws. Restrictions and HOA regulations will be in here. Request this the first meeting.

    Second-- Get a copy of the L-Sheets from tha LA or from the original GC. If not from them, go to the town planner office... they should have a copy of the approved plan on file. Good Luck!
  8. sheshovel

    sheshovel LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,112

    It's OK to get input and ideas from the board to help you design. Here's my suggestion to you.
    I would ask them to write down their ideas and suggestions and submit them to you that way, give them a cut-off date by which they need to have their ideas and goals for the project on paper and in your hands.
    Then you will review them and take them into consideration for the design.
    Be sure to ask them to designate one person on the board to speak as a voice for them all during the project.
    The worst thing to happen is to have 4 or 6 separate people coming up saying well we don't want this and we changed our minds and can you do this also while your doing that.
    After the plan is approved there will be no changing it unless absolutely necessary to complete the work. Be sure that you make yourself clear on that.

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