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Using 3-D design software to increase profits and client satisfaction

Client, contractor relationships

Perhaps perceived as a one-sided designer’s view point; however, a proper landscape design presentation cannot be found on a napkin or the backside of an old receipt or flyer. It becomes obvious to the client the contractor has their best interests in mind when a detailed drawing or 3-D representation of the design is presented, which clearly communicates the pool in context with the property is in balance with other landscape elements that are either planned or existing.

A detailed design drawing also offers the contractor protection by referencing limitations that define the pool’s placement or shape along with other added design elements by illuminating grading issues as well as controlled areas such as setbacks and easements. Showing these limitations clearly indicates the contractor is protecting the client from present and future issues. Otherwise, the alternative is trying to appease a persistent client only to return to the course of action that would have been taken if these issues could have been communicated more clearly earlier on.

Contractors and clients alike should expect due diligence from a landscape design that illustrates the research of controlled spaces such as Region Conservation Authority defined top of bank setback, easements, and greenspace. Ignoring these can result in costly legal battles, stop work, or court orders to return these environmentally designated areas back to their original condition.

Recent changes to some municipal pool permit processes require CAD drawings that note existing and proposed grading, along with dimensioned references showing the required distances between the pool’s edge and the property line are met. All of these elements might already be considered to the experienced practitioner and perhaps deemed by some to be unnecessary; however, without delving into the politics, it is important to expose the opportunity of the design as an object that meets the needs imposed on the contractor by municipalities as one that can be integrated into another that meets the needs of the client and subcontractors. If these requirements exist, the design tools offered via CAD provides more opportunities to record, change, and perform various design modifications when executed correctly.

In situations where the finished grading of an assumed site deems it necessary to include other landscape elements (e.g. retaining wall) to permit the installation of a pool or spa, it can translate into additional opportunities for the contractor.

For instance, rather than walking away from the project, or worse, incurring the cost of the added element without mutual consent of its inclusion or communicating its necessity, the initial investment of time in designing and configuring a backyard oasis with a mutually agreed increased budget would pay off. Further, increasing the project’s budget may even offset the added expense of the design, while also add value to the overall project.

If a contractor determines a potential project could benefit from an extensive design presentation, that contractor needs an inexpensive design and fast (usually within two weeks). The design should reflect basic information such as the property lines, proposed and existing grading, setback, and zoning information, as well as the size, shape, and position of the pool in its exact location. Everything else as they say is ‘gravy’—expensive gravy, however. For example, a $12,000 pergola, $10,000 in plant material, a $5,000 water feature, and the list can go on (patio, barbecue, hot tub, patio sets, hammocks, fencing, and gates, etc.). If only the contractor knew their client was in the market for any one of these upgrades. The subject would be broached and offered as a complete design package since it was included in the design and experienced in 3-D as if it were already in place.


van_Eijk_Headshot_edited-1Gary van Eijk is a Ryerson Graduate of landscape architectural technology. He owns and is the principal designer at Uncommon Ground Design Group Inc., in Mississauga, Ont. Van Eijk has been working with homeowners, contractors, builders, and architects in the GTA since 1996, and has been designing residential landscape projects in Toronto, Mississauga, Oakville, Ancaster, Muskoka, and Collingwood. He can be reached via e-mail at


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