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Going for the Green

Category: , Posted:22 Sep 2007 | 12:00 pm

Landscaping is a discipline inherent to architecture, yet it is often overlooked with amazingly little time and money spent on it. Although landscaping is one of the most important elements of a house or home development, it can sometimes end up looking like a beautiful woman who doesn't know how to dress up.

Neither arcane nor minor in scope, proper planning, execution and budgeting help make sure that hard or soft landscapes not only enhance a project – they can make or break a project's aesthetic appeal.

In many instances the common malpractice is that landscaping or gardens are planned after the construction is completed and whatever greenery fits into the existing areas will just have to do. Landscaping plans are delegated to general contractors, who in turn find the cheapest alternative for filling the open areas, often using a small nursery or supplier's plan.

Not including planning for landscaping when drawing up the budget for construction can mean that by the time it comes to working on the garden architecture, the project has gone off-budget and little funds remain to create a garden as equally spectacular as the building's architecture. Proper landscape design, be it by a landscape architect or designer, is an essential part of the initial project planning. It's best to sit down the planner with your architect at the onset of a project and look at how both can provide innovative ideas that work with the theme and leave scope for both professionals to give creative input.

Landscape design is far more than just turning the soil, weeding and manicuring green areas. A skilled designer will have input on exterior lighting, swimming pool enhancements, such as water features and ponds. He or she will also consider paths and walkways to sculpt the overall look and feel of all outdoor areas and their decorative features.

In the planning stages, feedback is needed from the teams who are designing the electrical and sanitary systems to ensure adequate provision of electrical sources for lighting and irrigation systems for watering plants, such as hose bibs and sprinklers, must be considered. Given the often-torrential weather conditions in Phuket, proper planning of water drainage addressed in advance will prevent rapid deterioration of exterior building elements and soil erosion.

More times than I care to count, I have seen substantial investments in expensive plants and landscapes literally go down the drain overnight simply because there was no forethought given to drainage and the ability to discharge or contain water. By considering all the elements of landscaping in detail during the initial planning stages, everything can be worked into the overall budget.

This process can include segregating trees and herbaceous items (plants, grass and so on). From these a bill of quantities (BOQ) can be listed and suppliers can bid in a manner similar to bidding for construction. Proper use of a BOQ will help get the best prices as comparisons can be made on the unit prices of individual items. The devil is often in the detail, and controlling costs can be done when documentation such as this exists.

In similar fashion to the services provided by an architect, a landscape designer will conduct site visits during the construction and subsequent softscape installation. Realistically, plans often require modifications due to site conditions or building requirements, so site visits are key to making quick alternations which could save money later where you are not required to tear down something that's already been built. Careful attention to documenting and issuance of site instructions controls additional expenses from your contractor and suppliers.

Changes do occur. Some designs look good on paper but need to be altered after the actual work being done can be seen. Hence, make provisions and a contingency plan, the same as would be done for the buildings.This generally ranges from 10% to 15% of the total value of the initial budget. Outdoor enhancements, such as artwork and decorative items, give distinction to a project and are every bit as important as the paintings that hang inside the home.

We are blessed that Phuket has a spectacular natural environment and an abundance of tropical plants, trees and vegetation. There are an increasing number of specialists in this field locally, such as Ross Palmer at Kumara Studio, while further a field in Bangkok Bill Bensley and BCA (Belt Collins) have completed many of the island's landmark projects.For any project, be it a new home or development, make a smart decision by giving landscape design its due.

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