Design3 Strategies for Budgeting Your Landscape Project

3 Strategies for Budgeting Your Landscape Project

As we wrap up 2022 and many individuals and organizations are in the process of looking at their 2023 goals and budgets, we thought this would be a good time to do a mini-series talking about budgets, money, and value in landscape architecture and architectural design! We’ll kick off by talking about how to integrate budgeting, or creating a financial plan for your project, into the preliminary design process in order to realize a successful project. Enjoy!


The biggest issues most people and organizations face in terms of achieving their design objectives on any given design project are money, funding, and budget. The old adage goes, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Well, this is especially true when it comes to your project’s budget. The traditional method – and probably the last thing you want to do – is to just start designing only to get knocked off course when the plans are done and the bids come in, or even worse, find out that your project is over budget during construction! For this reason, Io LandArch has developed what we call a project planning service that combines programming (understanding how a space needs to function), conceptual design (the big picture), and budgeting (how much it will cost) into comprehensive preliminary design exercise that results in relatively smooth and successfully completed design projects. Within the construct of the project planning service, there are three strategies to approach this initial design process with the budget in mind. These are:


  1. Design First
  2. Budget First
  3. Hybrid

Which option you choose depends on how budget conscience you want to be and what your overall time-horizon is for the project (more on that in a moment).


Strategy 1: Design First – This is the most typical approach when it comes to planning for your project. You tell us all of your hopes and dreams for your project and we work with you to develop an overall vision. The benefit of this approach is that you get to think about what you really want and what your goals are, without the limiting factor of budget. Once the big picture is established you figure out how to raise and/or allocate the funds needed to complete the project. Sometimes this involves figuring out a way to implement the project in phases. Or in some cases, when it isn’t possible to find funding or phase the project, we work with you to modify the design to reduce construction costs. The Design First strategy is a good approach for people who really want the best design possible, or the right design regardless of cost, and people who are “just trying to get some ideas”, or anyone who is willing to phase in a project over a longer period of time.


Strategy 2: Budget First – The Budget First approach is good for people or organizations who are working with a fixed budget, and who want to make sure to get their project completed all at once. This is by far the most responsible method of design, but may not be nearly as exciting as Design First. Designing to a budget is simple. You have a set dollar amount up front that you are willing to or capable of spending, you provide your wish list, and then the designer tells you what you might actually be able to do with that budget. If your budget and your goals are not aligned, your designer should let you know right away, then discuss phasing options or the need to increase your budget to achieve your vision.


Strategy 3: Hybrid – In this model you establish a general range for your landscape project (think $, $$, $$$, or $$$$) and then proceed to give your designer your wish list. Your designer comes up with an amazing plan along with a more precise budget for the project. This method is really the best of both worlds, because it allows you and your design team to have some creative freedom to explore ideas, without wasting everyone’s time. Regardless of which strategy you choose, it’s important to gain clarity on what you are really wanting to achieve with your project, and make sure that you have some order of priority in terms of individual goals and elements. Click here to get started with your project planning and budgeting!

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