Should I Hire a Landscape Architect?

Landscape Architect vs Landscape Designer | What’s the Difference?

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First of all, why is Landscape important?

Aside from adding curb appeal and real dollar value to any property, each landscape environment is unique. A landscape is both natural and crafted at the same time - a dynamic and changing environment that can be actively enjoyed or simply appreciated. A successful landscape provides an outdoor space for humans that is compelling and well-used while, at the same time enhances the natural environment.

Our outdoor open spaces have become more constrained over time. Denser populations mean less open space. In development projects, open space and landscape areas are both required to perform a variety of functions. For example, within that space, we need to capture and treat stormwater runoff, integrate fire wise measures, incorporate water conservation measures and accommodate utility locations.


Do I Need a Landscape Architect or a Landscape/Garden Designer?

If you are in need of a plant refresher or looking to update the spaces that you have at your home, a skilled landscape/garden designer will usually fit your needs. While every project is different, a landscape designer is typically appropriate for most single-family residential projects.

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When Should I Hire a Landscape Architect?

If your project is required to go through the City or County approval process, you will likely need a licensed landscape architect to stamp and sign your landscape plans. A licensed landscape architect can successfully and elegantly resolve numerous, and sometimes conflicting, development challenges and design opportunities. In parts of California, and in much of Napa County, there are several important elements that must be consider when designing outdoor spaces.

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  • drought-tolerant and water-efficient landscapes

  • water use allowances and estimated water use calculations

  • stormwater management and treatment

  • wildland-urban interface areas

  • fire wise defensible spaces


Many of the constraints and challenges we see in the county are also relevant to properties within City limits. There may be City standards and design guidelines that must be incorporated into the project to gain approval. A design professional that is familiar with your jurisdiction’s approval process and standards can save you time and money.


What is a Landscape Architect?

Landscape Architects are licensed by the State of California and by Department of Consumer Affairs.

Most landscape architects have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Landscape Architecture and many continue on in their education to receive a Master’s degree as well. Licensing exams take about a year to complete and work experience prior to the exams is required. These stringent requirements ensure that the work done by a landscape architect is of the highest quality.

Landscape architects are skilled in site analysis to understand constraints and opportunities, project program development, master plans, site layout, and site grading, in addition to planting and irrigation expertise. Landscape Architects are experts with native plant material, habitat creation and restoration, accessibility support, and community outreach.

Plan image: Multi Family Residence

Plan image: Multi Family Residence


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A landscape architect may specialize in different areas of design

  • resort and hospitality

  • commercial developments

  • custom residential projects

  • urban revitalization

  • campuses

  • memorials

  • ecological restorations

  • housing subdivisions

  • public projects such as:

    • streetscapes and plazas

    • parks

    • sporting facilities


Reasons to hire a Landscape Architect

  • You want to develop a cohesive master site plan for your property

  • You want a redesign of your outdoor spaces

  • our property is adjacent to a wildland area, such as a waterway, a forested area, or natural open space

  • You want to focus on habitat creation & restoration

  • You want to mitigate fire hazard areas and develop fire wise defensible spaces

  • You need to make your property accessible to people with disabilities

  • You have grading and/or drainage challenges

  • You want to create a drought tolerant/ waterwise landscape


Would your project benefit from a landscape architect?

If you are still not sure, we would be happy to meet with you to talk about your project.


Susan Heiken | Studio 1515 Landscape Architecture

Susan Heiken has over 19 years of experience in landscape architecture in the San Francisco Bay Area. Susan has collaborated on a diverse range of projects throughout her career including San Francisco’s Union Square, Santana Row, numerous housing subdivisions, various commercial and hospitality projects, custom residences, the Downtown Napa Specific Plan, Napa Riverfront Promenade, Downtown Napa First Street and the proposed Napa Civic Center.


This article was published in Napa Spotlight Magazine, March 2019


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