The Case for Precision – Thoughts on ALSA Dirt Article

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Landscape architects are stereotyped as working in the “wild” end of the AEC industry. Plant material, soils, hydrology, and other natural systems appear to be imprecise (if viewed from the wrong perspective), therefore, other design professionals infer that landscape architects can get away with imprecise designs. It’s just dirt and shrubs, after all. But, faced with increased occurrences of natural disasters and the demand for resiliency, precision is necessary; we cannot risk open-ended design solutions.


No place exists in a vacuum. Factors such as increased population density in urban areas, increased pressure on sensitive ecosystems in suburban areas, and rising sea levels makes this more apparent than ever. The decisions we make as licensed, liability-bearing professionals will continue to be scrutinized more and more by regulatory bodies concerned with public interests and our clients who are bearing most of the financial risk.


How do we hone in the level of precision of our designs? I see three potential ways to pursue a more process-based design approach: (1) broaden your team of external consultants, (2) challenge your internal talent to acquire new capabilities, and (3) expand your technology toolbox. Does this translate to increased costs passed on to your clients? Probably, but many clients are beginning to see these costs as insurance that protects their interests. Initiatives such as LEED and SITES are a good place to start as they require quantifiable performance levels (inherent levels of precision) to achieve certification. The early adopters of BIM processes achieve increased collaboration, data-rich design, and the ability to analyze precision across disciplines. Equip your firm with the people, knowledge, and technologies that allow them to achieve the level of precision needed today and prepare for future levels of precision.

What do you think about precision as it relates to Landscape Architecture? 

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