Last Updated Sep 12, 2017 · Written by Rob Schneider
How much does landscape architecture cost? It's not an easy question to answer. Landscape architects quote prices according to the scale of the project. Better known landscape architects will charge more than those who are just starting out. We look at a variety of landscapes and the approximate costs.*
It is possible to have a landscape architect prepare a design only. At the low end of the scale, a landscape architect might charge $50 per hour for this service. At the higher end of the scale, a landscape architect might charge $120 to $150 per hour. They work out their rates according to the time they estimate the garden design will take them and their level of expertise. A landscape architect who is starting their business will be at the lower end of the scale. An established landscape architect will be at the higher end of the scale.
Another way a landscape architect may work out design charges is to calculate the scope of the project and charge accordingly. They do this because one job can be quite simple, but another project can be complex, involving many landscaping aspects. For example, on a sloping block, retaining walls may be needed. If water features, structures and other features are needed, these will take longer to design and the cost may be higher.
How much will a typical landscape design cost? For a small garden, the fee might be free, if the landscape designer is also going to manage the project. If they are only going to design the garden, the fee can be between $500 and $1500. For a mid-level design, the fee might be between $1500 and $3500. A more complex design for a larger space might cost up to $6500. A large and more complex job might cost $10,000 or more. A landscape architect can discuss your job with you and give a cost estimate or quote.
What will a landscape architect give you in a design? As experts in their field, they will include everything you ask for, including:
Before a landscape architect begins a design, they will sit down with you and discuss the project. They will work out a design based on what you want in the garden. They will also offer valuable input and may suggest items they think will make the garden look better. For example, they might recommend plants that flower in winter or suggest adding a fountain or other water feature to enhance the landscape.
The client will have the final input. Then the landscape architect will draw up a plan. It may be a simple plan for a level block or more complex for a sloping surface that requires retaining walls, steps and other details. Landscape architects can even make 3D models if required. A 3D model will be more expensive than a 2D drawing, but may be necessary in some cases.
In most cases, the client will need to provide the landscape architect with drawings of the house and land. They need these drawing to refer to when they draw up a plan. They might want you to get a copy or two of the drawings. One copy will be for you to write your ideas on. That gives them a better idea of how to design the garden. They may want another plan to draw their ideas on to share with the client.
For a thorough design, a landscape architect will:
While a design is a good starting point and can be fine for a simple job, having a design to work with may not be enough for a larger project. As a novice, the client doesn't know where to begin or who to hire first. A landscape architect knows what order to hire trades in so the job goes smoothly.
Most landscape architects are available to supervise a project. In most cases, they charge according to the scope of the project. For example, for an expensive project of around $100,000, a landscape architect might charge:
Tender documentation includes getting quotes from the various trades needed for the project. If the landscape architect manages the project, they will be on hand to supervise the trades if needed. Arguably, paying an extra $1000 for project management is a price worth paying, since the landscape architect will know what to discuss with the various trades.
Depending on the scope of the project, the client's input can be very important. The landscape architect will want to know how the client visualises the final design. This can include placement of plants, garden features and other details. They also need to see the site and take note of the site placement in relation to the sun. This can be an important detail because areas in the shade will require plants that thrive in the shade. In sunny areas, they will need to choose plants that like full sun.
As mentioned above, a landscape architect who is just starting out may charge less for their services. They should have finished their tertiary studies and may be brimming with ideas and keen to establish a reputation.
If you have a fairly simple project, you can save money by hiring a landscape architect who has started a new business. Discuss the project with them and listen to their input. They may even draw a quick sketch of their design ideas for you. If you're happy with their feedback, you may be giving their career a good start.
If you have an expensive property and a lot of land, taking a chance on a beginner may not be the best choice. Choose a landscape architect with an extensive portfolio who can show you photographs of their previous work. This will help you decide if they are a good fit for the project and show you their level of expertise. They may cost more, but the results may be better.
Whether you choose a landscape architect who is starting out or a more experienced landscape architect, they should all take their career seriously. Look for someone who:
Don't settle on the first landscape architect you talk with. Speak to a few first. Look for a landscape architect you feel is in tune with the landscaping you envision. Some have distinct styles that may or may not be what you have in mind.
*Costs and prices in this article are indicative and should only be used as a guide. They also vary locally and are subject to market forces.
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