Assembling Your Project Team

Know which tradespeople and contractors you need to complete your landscape renovation.
By: Laura Fisher Kaiser

After you have a good idea of what you want in your landscaping project and how much you want to spend, it's time to find the right professionals to get the job done. Depending on the scope and scale of the project, you might hire a landscape architect, landscape designer or landscape contractor.

Landscape Architects. Landscape architects are licensed in 49 states and typically hold a bachelor's or master's degree in landscape architecture. Licensure requires passing the rigorous Landscape Architect Registration Exam. They can analyze your property, help you come up with a long-term landscape plan and orchestrate its many components including design, construction and engineering.

Landscape Designers. These designers do not need to be licensed, so their job descriptions and qualifications may not be as clearly defined as that of landscape architects. However, the Association of Professional Landscape Designers offers certifcation to members who have at least two years of experience and submit an acceptable portfolio of designs. Many hold an associate, bachelor's or master's degree in a subject related to plants, such as horticulture, botany or soil science. Like landscape architects, designers consider ecological issues, but rather than concentrate on topography and engineering, they focus on creating inviting outdoor spaces for clients.

Landscape Contractors. Members of this group may also be designers, combining the hands-on skill of landscape installation with knowledge of design and horticulture to complete design-build projects. Often using CAD software, they create a design that includes plants, shrubs, trees, walkways, walls and other features that will be in the ?nal layout. Many are formally trained in two- and four-year programs in horticulture, agriculture or landscaping. Some states require landscape contractors to be licensed. National certi?cation is available after passing an exam administered by PLANET (Professional Landcare Network), often in partnership with state agencies.

Landscaping Industry Certification Programs

Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards. "CLARB Certified" is the industry-recognized credential for licensed landscape architects. You can search for CLARB-certified professionals on the council's website. According to the organization, you can be "rest assured that the individuals listed in this directory are not only licensed but have sufficient experience to execute a job while protecting your health, safety and welfare."

Association of Professional Landscape Designers. The APLD's certification program confers professional recognition to landscape designers based on established standards of excellence. Currently, 20 percent of APLD members are certified. Certification is available for professional members in good standing who have been practicing landscape design for a minimum of four years. It is the only landscape design certification program in the United States. The certification review process involves a committee evaluating a candidate's submitted work, consisting of three installed projects. For each project, the designer submits drawings, a plant list, a design intent statement and photographs.

PLANET (Professional Landcare Network). To become Landscape Industry Certified, professionals must pass an exam in their specialty (such as irrigation, lawn care, horticulture, softscape installation, hardscape installation, turf maintenance or ornamental maintenance).

EPA WaterSense. Professionals who are certified EPA WaterSense landscape irrigation partners are trained on designing, installing and maintaining water-efficient irrigation systems.

Irrigation Association. The Certified Irrigation Designer (CID) program offered by the nonprofit Irrigation Association certifies professionals to establish specifications and design drawings for irrigation projects in such specialties as residential, drip/micro and sprinkler irrigation.

Accredited Organic Land Care Professional. AOLCP is the title given to professionals who have passed the Northeast Organic Farmer's Association (NOFA) exam and pledged to provide organic land care according to the NOFA Standards for Organic Land Care.

Product-Specific Qualifications. Some manufacturers have a rigorous application process for contractors and designers to become certified representatives for proprietary or technical systems. This might include training and education seminars, testing and referrals. In addition, a company might require professionals to demonstrate a proven record of outstanding work, customer service and in-depth technical knowledge of the company's systems and products.

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