I came across a very interesting blog by Garden Design Lisa Cox this week in which she laments the insistence of clients, to use their own builders for the garden, rather than getting a specialist landscape contractor involved.
Lisa believes that “landscaping is a completely different discipline to a house building project.” and to a certain extent this is true, but when it come to the hard landscape construction, I would be just as happy to employ a good builder, as I would a good landscaper.
The construction of walls, paving and steps are the same in both house and garden, decks and pergolas, are comparable to laying floor and roof joist and even pond construction is similar to tanking a basement or cellar.
Lisa is not alone in this view, as many garden designers share this belief, but some of them don’t appreciate that most, if not all the problems they experience using builders, boils down to their inability, or lack of training, to communicate the construction process and detailing sufficiently.
Very few garden design courses cover professional practice in anyway near enough detail so that students can go out and write sufficiently detailed contracts.
At the Oxford College of Garden Design, we were so worried about this, that we ended up writing our own model specification document, which has now been adopted as the industry standard.
We have just donated it to the Society of Garden Designers in the hope that they may finally start taking some responsibility for garden design education and insist that courses teach specification writing properly and to a minimum standard.
As for Lisa; she does produce both construction detail and a specification document as part of her contract documentation. May be as she says, she has been unlucky with her builders.
One thing I would say is that the landscapers profession does tend to be less chauvinistic and sexists and may be Lisa was unfortunate enough to run into some dinosaurs who believe women should be in the home and not on the building site……….But that’s a discussion for another time!