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What Is A Landscape Architect?


A residential landscape architect is responsible for the overall design and development of an outdoor living space. Often confused or lumped in with landscape designers, a landscape architect is a degreed professional with expertise in site analysis and design development, whose role it is to ensure both functionality and beauty in the finished product.


What’s the Difference Between A Landscape Architect and A Landscape Designer?

While anyone may refer to himself or herself as a landscape designer, a landscape architect resembles a CPA in that both must pass stringent exams in order to carry their designation. Although it varies by state, almost all landscape architects have at a minimum earned a 4 to 5 year bachelor’s or master’s degree in their field, as well as completed 1 to 4 years of fieldwork. Landscape architects are experts in site analysis and evaluation, design development, landscape ecology, plant and soil science, resource and conservation management, grading, drainage, and project management.




When Would I Use A Landscape Architect?

Whether installing a high-end pool design, creating a backyard oasis, or providing landscaping for a new home, landscape architects will take into account the landscape and hardscape (constructed elements such as patios or pavilions) and explore design options with the homeowner. They evaluate all aspects of a site from the slope of the land to drainage, climate, soil, and existing vegetation. They are also a wonderful resource for making a property “green” and sustaining.


What Specifically Does A Landscape Architect Provide?

While you may (or may not) get an adequate design from a landscape designer, a landscape architect offers a complete package from concept to completion. After site evaluation and undertaking a collaborative design process with the homeowner, a landscape architect presents the homeowner with what are called “construction documents.” Like a blueprint for a home, construction documents outline every detail required for the construction of the planned landscape. Written reports, 3D computer generated perspective renderings, blueprints, photographs, cost estimates, and detailed instructions for installation are all included. At that point, a landscape architect will either turn the plans over to the homeowner or stay on and act as project administrator, overseeing bids from genera/landscape contractors, making frequent site visits to oversee construction, and making any necessary adjustments to design throughout the building process.


What Does It Cost to Hire A Landscape Architect?

Fees vary by project. Roughly, fees tend to run 10-20% of construction costs. However, one of the benefits of using a residential landscape architect is that it’s the job of these professionals to make the best use of their client’s dollars, identifying cost-cutting measures in construction and design phases. Fixes for drainage or design issues are addressed before they become problematic, saving money in the long run. In addition, landscape improvements frequently provide a return on investment to the homeowner that well exceeds 100% of the initial up-front costs.



The role of a landscape architect is complex, and changes as a project goes through stages.  Working with a licensed landscape architect assures a homeowner their project will come in on time and on budget. The result is a functional and striking landscape that will be enjoyed for years to come.



Article written by Dena Harris

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