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The Benefits of Working with a Landscape Architect: An Interview with Steve Hutter of Hutter Designs, Inc.

By Steve Hutter

Please tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

Hutter Designs, Inc. is a small landscape architectural firm specializing in unique, personalized designs. We have over 17 years of satisfied customers enjoying outdoor spaces, as well as increased property values. Designs include residential, multi-family and affordable housing projects, as well as commercial ventures. Services include client consultations, developing scope of work, design development and preparation of construction documents (grading, drainage, landscape, planting and irrigation, as well as lighting plans with specifications and details). Construction observation and management services are available upon request.

Can you briefly explain the main differences between a landscape architect and a landscape designer?

A landscape architect generally has a degree from an accredited university, minimum of two years under the supervision of a licensed landscape architect, and has passed the 3-day Landscape Architect Registration Examination (LARE). A landscape architect is a person involved in the planning, design and sometimes the actual oversight of the landscape construction, depending on the complexity of the project and what the client desires.

Landscape designers do not require the same background and licensure requirements, which are not always required for residential projects. Oftentimes a landscape designer is the wise choice for a residential project. They often have a very strong background in horticulture and pay close attention to proper plant selection and environmental factors, and are able to cater to the needs and specific requests from a client, which may permit them to get the project moving forward more quickly, especially projects that are more straightforward in nature.

How does a homeowner know that they should be working with a landscape architect?

Depends on the scope, budget and complexity of the project. If it's a large estate with variety of design issues, slopes, walls, grading elements, as well as design review entities, it might be best to work with a landscape architect. There will most likely be more detailed drawings required, but the owner will be better able to detailed plans showing all the design elements as well as get accurate bids from prospective landscape contractors.

What are some typical projects that San Diego homeowners would hire a landscape architect for?

Projects that are larger in scope, ones that have a lot of design/construction issues to be resolved, outdoor structures, detailed hardscape, grading/retaining wall elements, etc., or perhaps there are additional city/municipal requirements, homeowner associations, etc.

Do landscape architects typically do the landscape construction or installation? Why is this?

Generally landscape architects do not do the construction or installation; however, there are some design-build firms out in the marketplace. Most practice firms are design only. Usually they don't have time and/or expertise to perform the construction side of the industry. That usually is for licensed contractors with the required qualifications.

What is one of the biggest challenges that a landscape architect faces and what do you do to help solve it?

Oftentimes the biggest challenge is coming up with a design that respects what the owner wants, that is aesthetically pleasing, functional, meets the constraints of the site, satisfies the overlying jurisdictions, and works within the owner's budget. After reviewing all the parameters involved with any particular project, there typically is a design development phase where preliminary concepts are explored and refined until a final base plan is prepared. All the other elements (grading, drainage, landscape, planting, irrigation, lighting, etc.) are then prepared based on that approved base plan design.

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