How We Work With Clients
DWA are fortunate to get most of their work through ’word of mouth’, meaning that we do not have to advertise. This has resulted in the practice being well established and respected for the quality of our design and environmental services by both private and public customers alike.
We do however tender for some of our work, especially projects for local councils.
This is a formal method of quoting for a project, where we not only give a cost to carry out the work, but also show examples of similar work. We also have to prove we have the resources and capabilities by means of questionnaires. Although sometimes, time consuming, it is a worthwhile exercise as we have won a number of interesting projects that all add to our experience and expertise. Once a project has been awarded, we receive formal notification to proceed. An initial meeting is then normally set up to further explain the brief and set timescales.
Projects involving private clients can vary tremendously, from private garden designs, planting schemes for larger developers, Landscape and visual impact assessments, reporting on landscape issues or auditing a site after implementation.
Regardless of who the project is for and depending on the nature of the work, a site visit is always necessary. Every site we work on is visited by a member of staff to assess many things, such as context, neighbouring properties, topography, and any existing features to be retained or in some instances removed. We also look out for anything detrimental such as invasive weeds and will advise the client appropriately on any action necessary.
This allows us to assess the opportunities and constraints of the site allowing us to carry out the design or report in the best way.
We work alongside many other disciplines, including Architects, Ecologists Arboriculturists Engineers and Planners. It is important to work well with all of them to get the best outcome.
For a housing project we would be asked to prepare a planting proposal which normally forms part of a planning condition when proposing a new housing scheme. We would receive a plan in CAD format from the Architect who has designed the layout. Supporting information such as tree surveys, ecological reports, drainage layouts are all considered and acknowledged and a layout is produced to tick all the boxes including the vision of the client. The landscape proposal includes a landscape design, a planting schedule with plant species, specification, numbers and locations. It also includes a planting specification and ongoing maintenance schedule. Once a site has been implemented an audit can be carried out if instructed by the client. This takes the form a photograph report which highlights any issues and recommends actions to bring the quality of the landscaping to the expectations of ourselves, the clients and the residents.
When designing a private garden, we would set up an initial meeting to establish the client’s wishes, budgets, constraints and opportunities. The garden would then be surveyed, if necessary and a sketch produced for discussion after that. Once a layout is finalised, the client can either ask for further details such as planting schemes, construction details and hard scape specification. The drawing can then be sent to a landscape contractor to price and ultimately carry out the work.
A Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA) is used to assess the effects of change on the landscape. For example, a new road or windfarm proposal, or for a new housing development. It is used to help locate and design the proposed change, so that negative landscape effects are avoided, reduced or mitigated. A site visit on a clear day is necessary to take photographs, and clearly see the surroundings of the potential development.
The physical conditions of the site itself are addressed through the study of the site’s topography, gradients, vegetation and built forms and what constraints that should have put on the development of the site, if any. A detailed visual analysis will then be undertaken starting with the preparation of a series of computer-generated a Zones of Theoretical Visibility (ZTV) plan. These are areas from which the development might be seen.
A short photographic study of the site, illustrating the conditions and features that currently exists and the views of the site from selected points is also undertaken. The conclusions drawn from analysis will then be reviewed in relation to the issues raised in the refusal notice in order to compare the levels of impact which have resulted in relation and ultimately to determine what can be proposed in order to mitigate any impacts which result.
As a knowledge-based enterprise our greatest strength lies in the skills and abilities of those who work for the practice and it is this which will encourage clients to return – this is our ‘product’. It is therefore vital to ensure that staff continue to develop their abilities and build upon their existing skills.
We would produce a fee quote based on the brief, prior to starting any project. Depending on the project, a site visit is usually necessary to assess the scope of the works.
A sketch can then be produced for comment and then a detailed design would then be produced. Supervision can then be carried out during the implementation phase or after installation.
DWA always strive to work to any time restrictions in place to allow the next part of the process for the client, developer, and planner etc. to be smooth and ahead of schedule.