Find a Landscape Architect

Find a Landscape Architect for projects of any size to develop residential, commercial or industrial sites. Whether you are planning a  overhaul, require lanscape preservation or are preparing for a new garden, an ideal Landscape Architect for any location across Australia can be found here. All your questions about choosing, hiring and working with Landscape Architects and the complete design and development process from site analysis through to landscaping completion are answered below. +

Published by Martyn Sanjay

Preliminaries

Finding and hiring a landscape architect

Landscape architects and the design process

Landscape architects and the building process

Defects, disputes and redress


Who are landscape architects?

Landscape architects are professionals committed to the environmentally sustainable management, design and construction of meaningful and attractive outdoor spaces. They combine the creative spirit of an artist with the technical understanding of a scientist to provide creative designs and land management solutions particular to individual sites.

What do landscape architects do?

Landscape architects plan and design land areas by applying architectural concepts to natural space. They carry out site assessments, looking at topography, soil, water flows, plant life, sunlight, and weather patterns, as well as existing structures, mapping the complex interactions within the landscape. They may consult with engineers or environmental specialists. Sketches, models, photographs, and videos are prepared to work through and present ideas.

Other responsibilities include seeking approval with clients, preparing specifications, arranging cost estimates, listing necessary building materials and drafting working drawings of the site. After tenders have been called and contracts negotiated, a landscape architect should supervise site work to ensure compliance with plans, specifications of work, cost estimates and time schedules.

If you are undertaking a major project, make sure to check whether the contracted landscape architect usually works independently or alongside other professionals such as architects, engineers and town planners as it is common for a landscape architect to be part of a team.

Also, be aware that landscape architects often specialise in terms of project and service type. Many do small residential projects, but very few specialise in them solely; some work in areas as diverse as schools and playgrounds, roads, waterfronts, airports and hotel complexes, regional planning and resource management, environmental remediation and historic landscape preservation.

What’s the difference between a landscape architect and a landscaper?

Landscape architects should have an extensive knowledge of architecture and design principles. They are trained in degree courses at universities that explore the broadest aspects of the outdoor environment, and are responsible for formulation of specific solutions, implementation of designs, and compliance with statutory and local government regimes.

Landscapers, on the other hand, should be used for more practical purposes. They generally have strong horticulture and garden design qualifications and are well equipped for residential and specific environments where practical knowledge and plant care factors are paramount, existing structures are to be retained, and the design potential is limited.

Landscapers should have a formal diploma or certificate qualifications in horticulture, garden design, planning and technical construction, in courses totalling up to five year’s of study. Some have additional specialisation to degree standard.

But be aware that no specific training is required to assume the title of landscaper, so the element of reputation and trust is especially important. To ensure quality, check that the landscaper you employ is a member of the Australian Institute of Horticulture (MAIH) or a member of the relevant State Landscape Contractors Association.

Do I need a landscape architect?

For a simple garden with a small budget: probably not. But the planning and organisation skills of a landscape architect might be vital for more complex briefs, with sustainability requirements or tricky interactions between structures and exterior spaces; or for larger or more complex sites, with multiple uses, public throughways or drainage requirements, slopes or remote locations, snow or frost, ocean salt, intense sun or high wind.

While landscape architects are especially necessary in relation to the design and construction of large public projects, they can still be valuable for small projects by helping to avoid costly planning mistakes, dealing with local building regulations, choosing superior materials, and overseeing construction.

Can my architect do the work of a landscape architect?

Your architect is qualified to undertake simple landscape design projects. But for complex or significant outdoor spaces it is best to consult a landscape architect. This is because landscape architecture is a highly specialised, multi-disciplinary field, involving specialist environmental, engineering, and horticultural knowledge.

At what stage in the process should I get in a landscape architect?

As soon as possible. Landscape architects perform tasks throughout the entire design and construction process. At the preliminary stage they canvass design, cost and implementation options. They also confer with architects, engineers and other professionals, and gather data concerning the site.

What is the relevant Australian legislation governing landscape architecture?

Landscape architects must comply with the Trade Practices Act. Although the TPA applies to corporations rather than individuals, members of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) are affected. The RAIA is itself incorporated, as are about one-third of member practices. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is the statutory authority responsible for administering and ensuring compliance with the TPA.

The relevant state Office of Fair Trading sets and maintains standards of competence for builders and tradespeople, and issues licences and certificates if needed.

In certain circumstances landscape architects may be required to comply with State Building legislation. A landscape architect may need to hold a certificate under the relevant Act to do residential work if he or she is contracted to do residential building work where the labour and materials content is worth more than $1,000, or is undertaking specialist work. Consult the relevant state legislation for more information or seek legal advice.

What consumer watchdogs and peak bodies oversee landscape architects?

The Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) is Australia’s peak professional body for landscape architects and assumes an accreditation, regulation and representation role within the profession. The Queensland Association of Landscape Industries (QALI) is the peak body specific to Queensland.

The International Federation of Landscape Architecture (IFLA) assumes a proactive leadership role as the peak global body for the landscape architectural profession.

Limited consumer protection is afforded under the Trade Practices Act, compliance with which is overseen by the ACCC. State and Territory Offices of Fair Trading also safeguard consumer rights, and advise business and traders on fair ethical practice. The Home Building Act (NSW) and its equivalent in other Australian States and Territories requires builders and tradespeople to be licensed for the work that they do, and to have proper contracts and insurance in place for most jobs.

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How do I find a list of landscape architects?

Specifier.com.au has a comprehensive database of Australian landscape architects and engineers. You can search your local area and you will be given a list of relevant names and contact details.

How can I choose a good landscape architect?

The website of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) contains a complete list of its members, sketching an outline of the services offered and areas of expertise of each practice and member. But be careful – the information is provided and updated by the members themselves, so it can be unreliable.

Industry publications are another good source of information. Have a look at Landscape Architecture Australia Magazine, Landscape Australia Magazine, the Landscape Architecture Journal, and if you can get your hands on it, Landmark, the AILA members’ quarterly newsletter.

If you still can’t find the right firm, try consulting the member lists of reputable industry bodies such as the Australian Landscape Foundation (ALF), International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA), The Queensland Association of Landscape Industries (QALI), or the Australian Council of Built Environment Design Professionals (BEDP).

How can I tell if a landscape architect is any good?

The most important step is to check that the landscape architect possesses concrete academic qualifications and accreditation. Also, check whether they’re a member of a reputable professional body such as the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) or the Australian Council of Built Environment Design Professionals (BEDP).

Industry awards are another mark of professional quality – but do keep in mind who funds and runs these awards, and why. The AILA confers national awards annually in the categories of excellence, stewardship and on-going commitment to urban design and landscape architecture. The most prestigious award is the National Award in Landscape Architecture, which in 2006 was awarded to Taylor Cullity Lethlean for Craigieburn Bypass, Hume Highway in Craigieburn, Victoria. Each AILA State branch also confers awards, either on an annual or bi-annual basis.

What qualifications and accreditation should they have?

The specialised work of landscape architects requires rigorous training and a high level of technical knowledge. Ensure that the landscape architect you engage possesses the relevant tertiary academic qualifications accredited by the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA). There are currently seven Australian universities which offer accredited BLArch degrees - the University of Western Australia, Queensland University of Technology, University of New South Wales, University of Canberra, RMIT University, University of Melbourne and the University of Adelaide.

Also check whether the landscape architect is a registered Associate (AAILA) or Fellow (FAILA) of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA). This is your guarantee that appropriate standards of recognised training and experience have been attained. The registration scheme, administered by the AILA board, ensures that registration is afforded only to those with AILA Associate membership, at least five years of genuine commitment to continuing professional development, and a minimum pass mark in an AILA examination of skills and attitude. To ascertain whether a particular landscape architect is registered under the scheme, consult the lists of members or the practice directories at the AILA official website.

To further confirm the quality of the landscape architect inquire as to whether he or she is a member of a reputable professional body such as the Australian Landscape Foundation (ALF), International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) or the Australian Council of Built Environment Design Professionals (BEDP).

If your landscape architecture project is large and complex you should ensure that the track record of the contracted landscape architect is sound, and that only an AILA registered landscape architect is responsible for the high risk or complex areas of approving tender/contract documents and administration of inspections during construction.

Should I investigate more than one firm?

Yes, unless you have had a previous association with a landscape architect that worked well. However, because the industry is not regulated strictly it is advisable to investigate a number of options.

How do I narrow down a shortlist of landscape architects?

Go online and visit the websites of some landscape architects (you can find links to landscape architects’ websites under their listings in the Specifier directory). A thorough website should provide examples of past projects completed by the particular landscape architect, as well as their industry experience, academic qualifications and any awards received. This online investigation should give you a general idea of the type and scope of the architect’s work.

Narrow this list of candidates with a few phone calls. Ask some easy preliminary questions: if they’re available, or if they’re interested in a project of that size. Have some idea of what it is you want, and try to sum it up in a couple of sentences.

What is the process of hiring a landscape architect?

Most architects do not have formal landscaping expertise so landscape architects are usually engaged as specialist subcontractors. They may be selected at the same time as the builder or at a later stage as required.

Because of the size of the Australian market, your architect may nominate a particular landscape architect with whom he or she has worked well previously. Alternately, landscape architects can be engaged through negotiation or through calling tenders.

How is landscape architecture work tendered out?

The tender process can be managed by your architect, the builder, or a specialist consultant according to your requirements. (For example, a landscape architect may supervise the tender process for the supply and installation of plants).

There are two general methods of tender. Public tendering is by invitation extended via the press and is open to all, irrespective of qualifications or experience. Private tendering usually involves the pre-selection of candidates with a familiarity and sound history in your type of project. Selective tendering in the landscape architecture context is commonly restricted to five or six contractors and except for large public projects private tendering is the norm.

Your architect should discuss and make recommendations about subcontracting arrangements. A good architect should also assist you in evaluating tenders. Consideration should be paid primarily to value for money, but should also be given to the tenderer’s ability to meet the project schedule, to appropriately staff your project, and to provide the necessary equipment. You should also consider the tenderer’s experience in your type of project, his or her reputation for quality work, and his or her financial stability.

How much should I pay for a landscape architect?

Estimating the cost of employing a landscape architect is difficult and varies greatly depending on the type and scale of the project, as well as on the experience and reputation of the architect. However, you can expect the plan for a new home on a one half acre lot to be around the A$1800-2500 mark, and somewhat less for a smaller portion of a property. This is only a rough guide.

Can a landscape architect save me on costs?

Yes – above all, by appreciating factors such as climate, soil, flora, precipitation, and drainage, landscape architects can ensure a project’s long-term environmental sustainability, minimising the cost of on-going maintenance and repair.

A landscape architect can also reduce input costs by obtaining quotes independently, then comparing them with the price tendered by bidding contractors.

How is payment for a landscape architect organised?

Generally there are two methods of payment. A landscape architect may either provide a design to meet an established budget, or may help to establish the budget early in the design phase.

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How long will a landscape design take?

The length of time varies in accordance with the project size. For a general residential design the plan development process should include a number of meetings with the client to discuss the concept sketch, and then the drawing up of a master plan. In most cases you can expect a completed master plan five to ten weeks after contract signing.

How much input can I have in a landscape design?

Landscape architects are trained to work in a collaborative fashion. In conference with clients they are usually happy to revise plans in response to taste and need, so don’t be afraid to voice you own ideas about how you would like the space designed.

How does a landscape architect work with a builder?

It is essential that you also confer closely with your builder before engaging a landscape architect. This is because it is the builder, and not the landscape architect, who legally contracts with the subcontractor. The Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) reports that ignorance of this legal relationship is the major factor contributing to contractual disputes in this area. “ The supplier or subcontractor selected must be acceptable to the builder as only the builder has a legal, contractual relationship with the supplier or subcontractor” the RAIA states.

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What dangers should I look out for in a contract with a landscape architect?

Be careful. Within the limits imposed by law, equity and legislation, parties to a contract are able to exclude or modify their obligations as they see fit. This means that it is totally legal for a landscape architect to draft an agreement which excludes him or her from liability, or to construct a contract in which one party purports to indemnify another.

Make sure you seek legal advice before entering into any legally binding contract.

What do I do if a landscape architect breaches the contract?

While criminal liability is pretty much unheard of in landscaping architecture, civil liability does sometimes arise. Usually, this is for breach of contract. Make sure that you contract with a landscape architect who is covered by professional indemnity insurance. PII cover increases the viability of legal action as an effective method of redress of professional negligence claims. However, be aware that the number of landscape architects with PII cover has fallen dramatically in 2006 as cover grows more expensive – in the least twelve months the number of PII providers in Australia dropping from about 35 to less than 5.

What are moral rights and should I worry about them?

A new Moral Rights Amendment to the Copyright Act protects the “moral rights” of artists, including architects. It is designed to protect their reputation, and the integrity of their work.

A landscape architect has the right be attributed as the designer of a project when it is constructed, and when it is publicised or represented in print. They also have the right to be informed if their project is to be altered or demolished.

Any alteration or demolition of a landscape design may, therefore, amount to derogatory conduct. If derogatory conduct is established the architect can require that their name no longer be associated with the project. This can significantly affect the value of a project designed by a well-known landscape architect.

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