Long-term landscape

Make your designs – and your company – more valuable to your customers by building adaptable landscapes.

Transitional landscapes are created with the idea that people are staying in their homes longer, so their landscapes should be adaptive. Customer’s needs and wants will change over time, and creating a landscape design that takes this all into account can make your services more valuable to the client.

“In my opinion, to truly gain an understanding of a transitional landscape or whether or not it needs to be transitional, know the lifestyle of your folks and how that lifestyle may or may not change over the course of time they’re at that home,” says Roger Hupfer, a landscape architect with Cooperative Design Resource in Centennial, Colo. “When I sit down in front of a client, my conversation tends to be more about their lifestyle and how they presently plan on using their landscape and potentially what they might be looking for in 10 years or 20 years.”

Hupfer says customers’ needs can change for a variety of reasons, and some of them require a change in landscape.

“Do they have the same time to spend on their landscape now, as opposed to 10 years from now?” he says. “Will they have the physical ability and desire to do that 10 years from now? If I walk in and they’ve got a couple of puppies and a 4-year-old and an 8-year-old and one of their first comments is, ‘We plan on being here for 10 to 15 years,’ I know right away we are already talking about something that should be considered a transitional landscape.”

Hupfer says the client’s lifestyle is important because a family may want a kid-friendly yard now, but in 10 years when those kids are grown up, they’ll want a more adult-centered yard, with less playground equipment and more entertainment elements.

“Find out more about the user,” he says. “Likes, dislikes, hobbies. Take a look on a much larger scale.”

Another thing for clients to consider is entertaining. Are they planning on entertaining in their yard, and if so how many people are they expecting over? Will the entertaining be once a year or once a month? Or do they have a job now that doesn’t require entertaining, but after a few promotions there’s a chance that could change?

Thinking in the long term.

Tom Trench, a partner with Cooperative Design Resource in Centennial, Colo., says the first thing he does with clients is create a wish list.

“We walk out in the backyard to do design work and I say, ‘This is the time for your wish list. Tell me all the things you think you might want to have in the backyard so we can take it into consideration and we can plan for it,’” Trench says. “Get the client thinking about the long term.”

Once you know what your client wants, look at each element of your design. Consider how important it is and how it will fit into the vision 10 or 20 years down the road.

For example, if you’re putting in a patio for a customer and they plan to install a fire pit in a few years, it’s important to take that into consideration.

“I don’t want to go out there and build a 200 square foot patio when they need a 500 square foot patio,” Trench says.

“If it’s, for instance, somewhat important but not critical, and five years from now becomes even less important, it’s certainly not something that’s going to take center stage in the design,” Hupfer says. “I wouldn’t design around it.”

If the element you’re looking at isn’t critical to the design in the future, it’s important to make it something that can be changed pretty easily into something else, or taken away from the design completely.

“You allow space for something to happen,” Trench says. “If I think in 15 years I’m going to put an addition on here, I wouldn’t put a swimming pool here.”

Whether or not something is expected to change in 10 years, it’s still important to make it part of the current design, because there’s always a chance the project will fall through.



Not just about the client.

Another important thing to consider when designing transitional landscapes is resources.

“Where I do my business in Colorado, years and years ago water was not an issue. We had all we needed,” Hupfer says.

He says water is an important example of something to consider. With the drought going on, the cost of water is continuing to go up, and as people stay in their homes and potentially start to retire, their income may decrease and they may not be able to afford the design originally discussed years prior.

For a designer, Hupfer says designing a transitional landscape should be nothing new. He says everything considered for the design are things you should be thinking about anyway.

“It’s a wonderful tool to walk a homeowner through ‘Here’s what it’s going to look like when it’s done, however when your children grow out of this playset, this is what I envision this space becoming,’” he says. “I think it’s a good way to lobby for using design as a very effective tool.”

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