Frequently Asked Questions About Professional Landscape Architects

Links Related to Landscape Architecture

Search tool for the drop down menu that will take you to the Leadership and Governance section of the American Society of Landscape Architects web site to read the ASLA Code of Ethics and the ASLA Code of Environmental Ethics

Wisconsin Chapter of American Society of Landscape Architects

Federal Government Affairs/Stormwater Case Studies/Stormwater Case 331 Angel Flight Estate, Fontana, WI

Federal Government Affairs/Stormwater Case Studies/Stormwater Case 330 Feltes Lakefront Stormwater Managment,Fontana, WI

Federal Government Affairs/Stormwater Case Studies/Stormwater Lake Geneva Youth Camp and Conference Center, Lake Geneva, WI

Three projects from KDG are spotlighted in the ASLA's response to a request from the Environmental Protection Agency for case studies of projects that successfully and sustainably manage stormwater.

Read about a sustainable landscape design project with the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Shawn is interviewed regarding universal access - and also illustrated the article! Beginning page 31.  

What is a Landscape Architect?

A Landscape Architect is someone who has first completed a Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB) accredited degree in Landscape Architecture from one of sixty-eight programs at select universities.  This degree may be a BLA, BSLA, MLA, or MSLA degree.  The LAAB sets stringent guidelines for the review and accreditation of degrees that are based on the tenets of public health, safety, and welfare.  The graduate from one of these programs must next intern with a Licensed Landscape Architect for two years (minimum in most states).  After the completion of the internship, the applicant must then sit for and pass the Landscape Architectural Registration Examination, administered by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards (CLARB).  Upon successfully passing this rigorous examination, the applicant may request registration in their state from the Joint Board of Technical Registration (title varies by state).  Only then, in forty-seven states, can the applicant be called (Title Act) and practice the profession of (Practice Act) a Landscape Architect. Currently, only IL, MA, and ME do not have a Practice Act passed into law. 

In Wisconsin, some practitioners may remain from the date of initial state certification of Landscape Architects. Those in practice at the time of the law passage are allowed to practice in Wisconsin with a 'sunset' or 'grandfather' certificate without satisfying the criteria listed above.  These practitioners cannot receive reciprocity for their practice in another state, unless they first meet that state's requirements.

All landscape architects, regardless of their initial licensure path, are required by law to stamp all construction drawings with an official state seal.  Further, each of these landscape architects receives a pocket certificate which they are required to display upon request.  

Why hire a Landscape Architect?

A Landscape Architect is responsible for public health, safety, and welfare.  The intent of all the education, internship, and testing is to provide you, the consumer, with the expectation that the services you receive are of a certain quality and that your best interests will be preserved.  The strength of their education, internship, and testing help assure you of certain skills.  You also have the added security of knowing that one who does not provide the services expected is liable through the State Board of Technical Registration.  If the practitioner is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects you also have the Code of Ethics and Code of Environmental Ethics to measure their success.  You may contact the ASLA with concerns over the ethical behavior of any professional member.   

How do I work with a Landscape Architect?

You should make your meetings with the professional as informative as possible.  It is best to have all the stake holders present when the initial conversations occur regarding your project.  This will prevent multiple, potentially conflicting inputs into the equation of your site solution.  If you have an existing topographic survey, make sure to show this to the professional.  Consider acquiring a topographic plan if one does not exist.  This will typically involve a survey by a competent land surveyor.  The information that this plan will convey to the Landscape Architect will more than pay for its cost.  Next, if you have any specific or general ideas about your project, let the Landscape Architect understand your ideas. 

Let the Landscape Architect know your specific budget for construction.  If a plan is going to be implemented in a phased approach, then let the professional know your thoughts. You may find that they have ideas that will help achieve your goals. Also, be prepared to relay the things you like and do not like--from plant bloom colors to frequency of bloom, from native species to manicured (and maintenance preferences), from smooth concrete to brick pavers, stone to stabilized earth.  Also let your Landscape Architect know what architectural style you like.  While it may not be possible or practical to replicate all styles in every site, this information will help the competent professional decide the direction of the design process.

What is design-bid?

Design-bid is the type of professional practice that does conceptual drawings followed, upon approval, by construction drawings. The product is a complete set of drawings that describe a project that may be built by either professionals or elements built by owners, etc.  

Why do I need construction details?

Details describe the conceptual elements in concrete terms.  The construction details, with accompanying performance specifications, allow you to obtain apples-to-apples bids from competent contractors.  The details can also be used by some owners to construct elements of the project themselves.  The detail should contain dimensions along with the physical depiction of the product, accompanied by descriptions of type, color, quality, and finish of the elements that comprise the finished object. 

What is the benefit of construction drawings?

Construction drawings (CDs) are not a mandatory requirement for every project.  However, the CDs are critical if the project is going to be bid on by contractors.  The construction drawing set will describe the grading and drainage (elevations and flow), horizontal control (x and y geometry), construction details, specifications for construction, planting plans, planting and soils specifications, and, if needed, the irrigation plan and lighting plan.  Together these comprise the construction drawing set. 

The complete set should be given to each bidder in the pool of potential builders, so that they might provide true apples-to-apples bids. We also keep a set of those drawings to check against upon project completion.  This 'punch list' makes note of every discrepancy between the plan and the constructed project.  The benefit of retaining the services of KDG, LLC for this final check prior to payout of contractors is to make sure you have received what was desired, what was designed, and what was bid in the project. 

What is the difference between CDs and Conceptual Plans?

Many firms produce conceptual landscape plans.  These might be very loose and sketchy, or quite calculated and finished.  I encourage you, the client, to consider the value of finished conceptual plans.  The concept should be as close as possible to the finished product that you expect from the Landscape Architect. KDG only produces the latter type of conceptual plans.  The intent is to provide you with the closest depiction of the accurate plan that is possible at this level.  For example, the grades should be accurate within minor degrees and the number of steps shown should be very close, if not equal, to the number needed and shown on the Construction Drawings. 

My project is relatively small. How can I benefit from the work of a Landscape Architect?

The scale of your project should not influence your decision about the level of service you obtain.  KDG, LLC has great pride in serving clients with projects that include all scales.  The attention to detail you receive will be equivalent regardless of the size of your project.  The attention to small elements will make a small project appear to have been created as an integrated whole property. 

The impact of parking, access, and egress, and stormwater impact and management all must be integrated with care, regardless of site scale.This level of detail makes small sites perceptually bigger. This gives them the level of care that allows them to be important places.

I am building / adding-on. When should I contact a landscape design professional?

You will be well served to form a team of professionals early in the game.  The sooner you organize competent professionals to contribute to your project the better your finished project will appear and function, with lower cost to construct.  KDG, LLC will help you assemble the professionals you need for any project.  We have participated on project teams ranging from two to over fifteen professions deep.  The product of this professional collaboration is very telling in the finished project.  We value your time and your project.  The best use of our time is to your benefit. 

KDG, LLC works with Architects to site buildings, design parking lots and access roads, paths, emergency access and egress, route utilities to sites while avoiding precious elements on site.  We design strategies for construction access roads, temporary haul roads and dumpster sites, along with equipment staging.  We work with utility engineers to route utilities in expeditious and non-invasive or damaging routes.  We work with geotechnical engineers to identify protected and fragile sites, consider ground water levels and maintenance, and restore base flow to de-watered sites.  We work with local regulatory agencies to minimize impacts on adjacent sites, while minimizing erosion and soil loss on project sites.  We also work with local government agencies to minimize the negative impacts of construction and work to make our projects align with the greater goals of those agencies. 

KDG, LLC is listed by Walworth County as a preferred provider of plans for riparian sites.