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Extension > Garden > SULIS > Design > The Base Plan > The Interview

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The Interview, Asking the Right Questions

In a residential landscape design program, the information gathering procedure is simply called the client or family interview and frequently involves the designer and the owner of the residence.

In commercial designs, the process is somewhat more involved and may include a needs assessment. Owners, managers, supervisors, maintenance personnel, or city or county officials may be involved along with a landscape designer, architect or engineers in the preparation of a needs assessment.

The interview and needs assessment are very important parts of the design program that stress sustainability. They should be completed as a "self evaluation" when home or business owners are designing their own property, and as a prerequisite to working with a landscape designer or architect. This is very difficult for individuals without formal training to do, because many of the questions may seem unrelated to the project they visualize.

Professional landscape designers and architects may effectively conduct the interview or needs assessment but may not be aware of the most important questions relating to a functional, maintainable, environmentally sound, and cost effective landscape. Frequently, the specifics of a commercial landscape are left solely up to the designer or architect. "Just make it look as good as possible within the allocated budget!", is often the attitude as money and construction deadlines become short.

When this happens, the designer or architect may not have the information needed relating to sustainability. Unfortunately, the primary goal is to finish the project, even if it is at the expense of quality and sustainability. To avoid difficulties, the maintenance personnel involved should always be included in the interview and needs assessment process.

Questions often missed when conducting landscape design interviews and needs assessments:

  • Who will be maintaining the landscape?
  • What size mower will be used?
  • What will the spaces in the landscape be used for?
  • How much labor is available for maintenance?
  • What is the supply, equipment, and expense budget?

Example landscape design Interview Questionnaire used when designing from a sustainable approach.
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