100% Remote Landscape Design Services: The Online Design Process Due to Covid-19

Casandra Maier- February, 2021

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As the Covid-19 pandemic follows us into 2021, we continue to pivot by adjusting our standards and practices to protect one another.  The industry of landscape architecture and landscape design are founded upon the principles of guarding health, safety, and welfare.  Our focus, when taking on any project, is to uphold these values for our clients and communities.  It is still possible to create plans for an outdoor living area while stuck at home, or to find help reducing the cost of commercial landscape maintenance, while also adhering to social distancing.  Remote landscape design services offer an online design process that further protects the health and safety of both client and designer.

 

While there are a few adjustments to going 100% remote, mostly in client consultations and site inventory, technology assists what was once done in-person.  The designer utilizes video consultations, screen-sharing, live sketching, and drone surveys as part of their remote toolkit to deliver the same level of accuracy, specialty, and expertise in an online landscape design process.  Seasoned in the art of working remotely, some landscape designers and architects have offered these online services years before the pandemic and have found ways to make them more accessible to their clients.  The design process lends itself to working creatively and remotely.  The benefits of a remote process are recognizable to both client and designer, making online services a sustainable option for the future of landscape design.  Consider these benefits, including guaranteed health and safety, with a 100% remote online landscape design.        

How Does the Online Landscape Design Process Work?

Online landscape design services follow the same design process as in-person services, with the difference that client meetings and site inventory occur online, with the help of technology.  The design process often involves one or more in-person meetings between designer and client.  Although once innocuous, meeting in-person to stand over a shared table or screen to analyze landscape plans, now poses a health and safety concern amidst a global pandemic.  The online landscape design process utilizes video chat platforms for remote client consultations and meetings, including:
 

  • Zoom

  • Facetime

  • Skype

  • Google Hangouts
     

Clients need a smartphone, tablet, or computer, and an internet connection to access these services.  The designer guides the process and implements the needed technology.  Assessing their client’s landscape needs, the designer creates a plan to deliver the appropriate design services for the proposed project.  The following are all part of the landscape designer’s remote consultation toolkit:
 

  • Screen-sharing

  • Live sketching

  • Presenting digital concept plans

  • Presenting finalized digital design packets

When offering a 100% remote online landscape design process, clients often pose the following questions:
 

  • “How will you design my landscape without seeing it in-person?” 

  • “There is an elevation change on my property, do you need to be here to see it?”
     

Technology, maps, and databases are the designer’s answers to these queries.  Online landscape designers access technology and databases to complete the site inventory phase of the design process.  This is the phase where the designer gathers data from the site, takes measurements and inspects the current landscape conditions.  To access this information remotely, the designer utilizes:
 

  • GIS databases

  • Topographic maps (elevation)

  • Detailed satellite imagery

  • Site plans

  • Base maps

  • As-Build documents

  • Photos of the site

  • Video “walk-throughs” for smaller outdoor spaces

  • Drone flyover services for larger properties and campuses

  • Drone surveys for any project to gain added detail

 

The designer utilizes the information collected during site inventory to create an expert landscape design for their client, all while observing social distancing. 

 

Notable Fact:

Drone surveys capture high resolution images with enough clarity to see a bumble bee pollinating a flower.  

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Online Landscape Design Backed by Experience

Pre-pandemic, landscape designers and landscape architects often took on remote projects and provided remote services.  From the time they are in design school, these professionals learn how to work on projects independently, often working in collaboration with other designers and industry specialists.  They learn to develop design solutions, sometimes never actually setting foot on the property they are enhancing.  Landscape designers and landscape architects have the education and experience to offer these remote services.  Independent designers, design studios and multi-disciplinary firms take on projects at the following levels:
 

  • Local

  • Regional

  • National

  • International

 

There are phases of the design process itself that are traditionally completed remotely.  Landscape designers have the most interaction with their clients during the assessment, inventory, and presentation phases of the design process.  However, the following work is usually completed in an off-site creative space, office, or design studio:
 

  • Designing the concept

  • Creating a rendering, plan-view, or 3-D model

  • Finalizing the design packet
     

Online landscape designers mix video consultations and other technologies into their practice.  A seasoned remote landscape designer has the communication and follow-through to guide their clients through the online design process.  They use the following data to inform their designs:
 

  • USDA Hardiness Zones/ Regional Climate

  • Topography/ Elevation Changes

  • Soil Conditions

  • Sun Exposure

  • Plant Knowledge/ Identification

  • Growing Conditions/ Micro-climates

  • Drainage Conditions

  • Existing Utilities and Structures

  • Client Landscape Usage/ Needs

 

Expect the same level of client-focus, expertise, specialty, and experience from online landscape design services. 

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Image Credit: Property of ND Design Services Inc.  

 

The Benefits of Online Landscape Design Services

  • Time Management

  • Reduced Cost/ Overhead

  • Increased Production/ Turn-Around

  • Collaboration and Communication

  • Sustainability

  • Health and Safety
     

What are the benefits to utilizing online landscape design services?  All the above.  The benefits of a remote design process make these online services a viable and sustainable option for the future of landscape design.  These benefits have a positive impact on both client and designer.
 

Overall, video consultations are:
 

  • easier to coordinate

  • efficient for time management 

  • conducted from the comfort of the client/designer’s home or office 


 

Online landscape design cuts the time and cost of business travel, thereby:
 

  • reducing business overhead

  • reducing the overall cost of landscape design services

  • investing business travel time into production   

  • reducing turn-around to the finalized design packet                     

 

Collaboration and communication between the designer and client are strengthened in an online process by:
 

  • increasing the client’s connection and/or satisfaction with their project

  • streamlining the editing process with screen-sharing and live sketching

  • the accessibility of video consultation

 

The sustainability of online landscape design is expressed in:
 

  • reduced carbon emissions/ carbon footprint

  • paperless documents and bid packets

  • the accessibility of design services

  • the quality of production processes

  • the designer staying current to technology and industry trends   

 

As hazardous conditions persist, an online landscape design process guarantees:

  • Health

  • Safety

  • Well-being

  • Social Distancing

     

Experience the many benefits that come with remote landscape design services, while protecting health and safety during Covid-19.

 

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In doing our best, we continue to ask how we can protect one another.  The health and safety of essential workers relies on practicing social distancing when and where we can.  While moving our landscape projects forward it is everyone's responsibility to adhere to CDC guidelines and remain socially distant.  The 100% remote online landscape design process creates an added layer of health and safety for our clients and communities.   

Sources:

Hansen de Champman, G. (2018). Landscape Design: Ten Important Things to Consider. University of Florida IFAS Extension. EDIS

https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep375#:~:text=The%20five%20steps%20of%20the,drawing%20a%20final%20design%20plan. 

Dodge, N. (January, 2021). Interviews with ND Design Services Inc. 

ANLD. (2021). Why Hire a Landscape Designer. Association of Northwest Landscape Designers 

https://www.anld.com/Why-hire-a-designer