Good Design = Lasting Value. When your hard earned dollars are being spent on an installation you want to make sure that the final design provides the foundation for a project that will contribute lasting value to your home and your lifestyle.
Most design/build companies, in one way or the other, charge for design. In the landscape industry, I have come across three ways that design-build companies will charge for design services.
1. Establish a design fee with the client. After meeting with the client and evaluating the scope of the project the client is presented the cost of the design or given an approximation of the cost.
2. Offering free design. This seems too good to be true and frequently is disingenuous. With this arrangement, the designers cost is either incorporated into the company’s overall pricing or directly backed into the proposal.
3. Rebate the design fee. This is dependent on the condition that the company designing the project will also install the project. When you contract for installation there's a good chance the cost of your design is already incorporated into the proposal. If you decide to not proceed with the installation then you are directly billed for the design.
One way or the other the costs of a designer must be covered. If the design service is truly not covered - how much time will the designer really spend thinking through the design process? Herein lays the central problem with the promotion of free design. The designer, not knowing if he/she will be installing the project, commonly rushes through the design to create something that they can sell you. The resulting design is product driven and not process oriented. And let’s be honest – there is a lot of really poor landscape work being done that contributes little if anything to the value of one’s home or lifestyle.
There are several reasons for establishing a design fee with a client. It establishes an honest and valued relationship between the designer and the client. It allows a designer to be process oriented – not product driven. The designer is working with you and for you through the process. It provides the means to investigate and understand design problems, rather than chasing after solutions, or simply force fitting old solutions onto new problems. It should reduce design compromises saving you money. And finally, you are most likely investing allot of money in the project. Would you begin a renovation of your home or kitchen or bathroom without a solid plan in place? You're outdoor environment should be no different.