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Communicating your designs

Communicating your designs

Everyone should be clear what materials are being used and how at the quoting stage, well before work begins on site. Photo: The Outdoor Room


Landscape contractor David Dodd advises on the paperwork and plans that will ensure a good garden build


Every week, I receive new enquiries for garden build projects from designers of all abilities, and I still get excited seeing how the designer has interpreted the space they have been given, to create a beautiful and/or functional garden. A designer may have a clear vision in their head as to how they want their work to transform from paper to reality, but what’s the best way to transfer that vision to the contractor, and how much time and cost will it add to a design project to ensure the right details and information are being given?

Speaking with many other contractors, the same issues come up time and time again regarding what would make the process of tendering for a project easier. I hope some of the following points will help with obtaining much closer ‘apples for apples’ quotes if your project is out to tender. They should also save you time and greatly reduce confusion, frustration and potential additional costs to your client.


Design drawings

A survey is a must, but it can be useful to send a copy of it with an overlay of the new design. The setting out drawing must be accurate and relevant. Avoid random triangulation points if setting out isn’t possible due to a tree or building being in the way, or if the triangulation point is somewhere in the kitchen. This may sound obvious, but it’s amazing how often it occurs.

Relevant section and elevation details are vital to show the construction details you have in mind and how the various elements of the garden connect with each other. Don’t reserve your artistic visuals for the client’s eyes only – share them with the contractor too. These can be a huge aid to the contractor, not only in supporting your technical drawings, but also in inspiring them to get into your mindset.

Like the drawings package, keep the specification relevant and avoid whole cut-and-pastes from previous projects. Heathers can be a useful guide for writing a spec, but don’t use it as a ‘one spec fits all’ document. Give all the information that is required to ensure the project is built to your exact specification and the build phase isn’t left to interpretation by the contractor.

Materials should be specified by the designer, not the contractor. State exactly what is required and give full contact details of the supplier. If the final decision on certain materials hasn’t yet been made, then add a note saying so. For example, you could say: “Paving for terrace TBC – for tender purposes please allow for 50mm thick-sawn York stone.”

A good specification makes pricing, ordering and building much quicker and avoids too many prime cost (PC) sums at the tendering stage.


A sample BOQ, which will aid communication between designer and contractor



Bill of Quantities conundrum

The Bill of Quantities (BOQ) can be a bit of a sticking point with some contractors, many of whom feel they are being left to do the designer’s job. To some extent I agree with this, but before this issue turns into too much of an ‘us and them’ scenario, let’s look at the huge benefits of designers producing a decent BOQ.

A BOQ is the only real way of ensuring an accurate comparison of quotations submitted. It’s very easy to spot where one contractor may be higher in costs over another. It’s good to remember that the cheapest quote isn’t necessarily the right quote; if two companies are pricing £30k for a water feature and the third is quoting £10k, there’s clearly a misunderstanding, which, by using the BOQ, is easily identifiable. For new designers, it’s a great way of building up your knowledge of unit costs for landscaping, which will help you work to budgets on future projects.

BOQs are a great cross-reference to the specification and drawings. It can even be incorporated into the spec for smaller projects. Most design work is done on computers these days, so quantifying areas is much easier than the old method of measuring off a paper plan with a scale rule and having to remember the difference between 2πr and πr2. I don’t like to use the term ‘up-selling’ as I see the BOQ as an essential part of a project, but it should most certainly be appropriately charged to the client as part of the design package.

I would also suggest designers stay on top of their responsibilities regarding CDM regulations and ensure the contractor is fulfilling theirs. Make it clear what form of contract will be used for the project and also who the contract will be with – main contractor, client, developer? Finally, poor last-minute communication rarely works and can cause serious disruption. The most successful projects all have timely and open communication.



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