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Designing to win

August 17, 2020 -  By
Person working with design software (Photo: Vectorworks)

Streamline systems Prepopulated templates can help price jobs out quickly and easily. (Photo: Vectorworks)

Not only can design software assist designers in creating a layout, but it can also help companies in the estimating process.

“Design software tries to make that whole bidding process easier as opposed to keeping track of things on paper,” says David Sloan, sales manager for Pro Landscape by Drafix Software. “The companies can set their pricing and as they do the drawing, it creates the bid for them. It kills two birds with one stone.”

Danilo Maffei, principal of Maffei Landscape Design in Kennett Square, Pa., adds that software can give design companies an edge in creating proposals.

“The more understandable and attractive our proposals are, and the more unique and personalized they are to the client, the better chance we have in getting the proposal,” he says.

Landscape Management got the rundown from Sloan; Maffei; and Eric Gilbey, product marketing manager for landscape industries at Vectorworks about how design software can ease some of the pressure in the estimating process.

Know your numbers

As a designer, Maffei says implementing design software early on helps keep track of clients’ budgets.

“If I know that my client is working toward a budget, I can have a worksheet in the software running a constant tally,” Maffei says. “I’m using it as an estimating tool and a design tool, so I can see where my costs are happening physically on the property rather than just nebulously in the entire project.”

In some cases, Sloan says, design software features a mobile app, where companies can do basic quoting and design in the field as they meet with customers.

“It may not be a complete quote upfront, but as they’re walking around the property with the customer, they can be giving them ideas during the consultation process,” he says.

Maffei advises contractors make sure pricing information input into the software is accurate.

“If the data you’re putting in isn’t up to date, accurate or complete, or if you’re not expressing it in the right units, your estimate is going to go sideways really quickly,” he says. “You need to be fastidious about your record-keeping.”

In addition to tracking clients’ numbers, Sloan also suggests contractors understand design software programs’ costs, including monthly fees and upgrade prices.

Know your process

When designing and estimating in a digital environment, Maffei says it’s important to include costs of “invisible” items, such as how much it would cost to regrade an area.

“I’ve created a check-and-balance system in the way that I design to use a series of layers that represent the construction sequence,” he says. “So, it’s all the things that are necessary each step along the way.”

For example, Maffei says he starts with rough grading, drainage, site demolition and site protection as a layer and adds layers for items such as utilities, pavements and walls.

To further assist with those items, Gilbey adds that often, design software features template files, which can be prepopulated with preferred elements.

“All of those items (and prices) can be adjusted, but it’s the idea that all of these mechanisms are prepopulated to make the designer’s workflow much easier,” he says. “The designer can get those worksheets as finely tuned as possible, so every time they’re in a project, they’re just moving from design to estimate and estimate to installation.”

Finally, Sloan says it’s important to match the design software to the intended application.

“It’s really the kind of work,” he says. “Are they doing hardscape work or just softscape work like plants? Are they doing lighting? Some pieces of software are capable of doing pavers and lighting and retaining walls in addition to plantings, and some just focus on plants.”

Sarah Webb

About the Author:

Sarah Webb is Landscape Management's associate editor. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University, where she studied journalism and Spanish. Prior to her role at LM, Sarah was an intern for Cleveland Magazine and a writing tutor.

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