Gone are the days of simply putting together some plants and grass and calling it a landscape. Today’s landscapes integrate technology along with plant materials in exciting ways, from built-in barbeques, pools, spas and multifunction athletic courts to customized outdoor audio, lighting, security, and irrigation systems. More than being used as a finished element in the landscape, however, technology is now part of the landscaping process from inspiration through planning and construction. Consumers rely on the internet and endless cable TV programs for ideas and use computer programs to make simple plans. Landscape designers take even greater advantage of technology with sophisticated programs to design landscapes, integrate systems, ensure local code compliance, and coordinate with other building professionals. The sheer mass of the available technology is daunting, and while it makes innovative solutions in planning and design possible, integrating the various technologies adds another challenge to the planning and design process.

Sometimes employing the latest in high-tech products can empower consumers to move forward with the project of their dreams. For example, previous clients once had serious concerns about installing a pool in their backyard because of the potential safety problems relating to the couple’s two teenage children. It was important to the couple to be able to monitor the pool at all times, but this was impossible when both parents were working. The solution was to install a video camera that could be accessed via an internet video feed which the clients could monitor from their computers at work. Now this family is enjoying their pool and their security with the help of technology.

Another example of how technology can improve the planning and design process is in allowing professionals to communicate effectively and efficiently with their clients and each other. If your landscape designer uses the AutoCad program, he can easily share blueprints with architects, building contractors, and interior designers. Each of these professionals is immersed in their own field of design and products that are available to the consumer. The architect is typically focused directly on the house or building and pays little attention to what the client might be thinking about for the landscape. Proper coordination between the landscape professional and the architect can result in two separate projects that still fit together in both form and function. This planning process is further impacted by the regulatory growth and control our local governments are placing on our communities. For example, houses, pools, walls, etc… have to be set so many feet from a property line; fences are limited to certain heights and styles; and drainage requirements are new realities that need to be considered. All of these factors are made more manageable by computer planning and research.

The vast array of landscape options available through technology sometimes leads consumers to be overwhelmed with the size and complexity of a project. Sometimes the technology may even overshadow the importance of good design and creativity. A landscape designer will help you wade through options and decide what technologies are most appropriate for your landscape while implementing a creative design that’s both attractive and functional. Thorough planning can coordinate traditional landscaping elements with new technology and break even a large, complex project into manageable pieces. The end result of working through the design and planning process effectively provides you with a completed puzzle. All the pieces have a place within a landscape. The trick is to break down that plan into constructible parts. This puzzle can be completed as a whole project or can be pieced together over a period of time. Comprehensive planning allows you the ability to realize your dreams quickly or over a number of years.

Good planning also results in lower project costs due to the ability to perform the work correctly from the outset and laying the groundwork for future additions. For example, while designing your landscape you might plan to build a patio and install an irrigation system right away, but realize that at some point you would like to install an outdoor lighting and audio system, but probably not for a few years. While your patio and irrigation system are being built, a smart landscape designer will have a PVC pipe system installed underneath your patio and throughout your lawn during construction. When the time is right you can add your lighting and audio systems without ruining the lawn or patio. The best part is that when you get ready to actually install the new systems, the labor involved will be so small that you could probably do it yourself!

Consumers with a comprehensive plan can also be secure in the fact that their dollars are being spent wisely, knowing that work is being performed in a logical sequence. Nothing is worse for a consumer or professional than having to do work twice due to poor planning. Getting it done right the first time is essential. Consider the clients who want to install a pool and a new fence surrounding their property – two expensive projects. They decide to spread out their projects and do the fence this year so their kids and dog can run freely in the yard and to build the pool next year. They go ahead and pick out a fence they really like only to find out a year later that the fence does not meet the local code for pool safety, and that half the fence needs to be taken out to make room for the pool contractor anyway. This kind of situation is easily avoided with careful planning.

As we are bombarded with all of the exciting opportunities that technology makes available to us, we can be overwhelmed and lose sight of our true objective. Client and designer need to be careful to consider all the possibilities without losing sight of both the artistic and functional aspects of the project. As you watch home and garden television shows and peruse the internet, consider all the magical possibilities for your landscape, but please do not lose sight of the most important aspect of developing a project – good design and creativity!!!