Landscape Design-Build Trends: Best Of Times, Worst Of Times

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Garden structures, like the elegant arbor pictured here, add to the idea of backyard as “vacation paradise.”

Design-Build Trends

A number of trends defined 2022. Some were a continuation of existing trends and others were new. All had major impacts on design-build contractors in 2022 and will continue to impact them in the years to come. Astute contractors should view these trends as opportunities and build their strategic plans to take advantage of those that will work best for their companies.

Outdoor Living Areas. This is certainly not a new trend. It took hold during the COVID quarantines and has expanded considerably since then. Many clients found themselves with a significant amount of disposable income and few places to spend it. People weren’t traveling and going out to dinner. They were spending many hours at home looking at their old, dated landscapes. They started thinking that if they were going to be relegated to staying at home, they would create their own “vacation paradise” right in their back yard. These projects most often include a pool, an outdoor kitchen, and many beautiful garden structures like arbors, pergolas, and gazebos. Fire pits are now a “must have” with gas starters or all gas.

This trend has now grown, producing many incredible projects with budgets routinely in the $300-500,000 range. Many budgets are even now topping off well over $1,000,000! Clients are requesting pool houses with bathroom facilities and state of the art kitchens. They’re also adding new doors and windows to their home so they can not only view their new outdoor space, but access it more directly. The transition between home and outdoors is becoming more seamless.

Lighting, Fire, TV & Audio Systems. This trend is also not new, but outdoor audio and lighting systems have gotten better and better over time. Lighting systems with long lasting brass or copper fixtures with LED lamps are more energy efficient. Lighting systems can now be integrated into the client’s home wireless management systems, easily controlled on their cell phones. With security becoming a bigger issue, lighting is no longer just for aesthetics. It is now for security and safety as well.

State-of-the-art outdoor audio systems have matured to the point where beautiful sound can emanate from all parts of a garden without seeing the speakers. Large subwoofers provide incredible sound. Televisions are now seen frequently in outdoor structures so weekend football games can be enjoyed from the patio or from your pool and hot tub. Fire pots and fire walls are now popping up in gardens.

High End Garden Maintenance & Water Management. Once these outdoor environments have been created, clients are now looking for help in maintaining these beautiful gardens. They want to be enjoying the spaces, not spending their weekends out in their garden weeding and pruning. Many forward-thinking contractors have created “Fine Gardening” programs for their clients. These programs handle the intricate aspects of garden maintenance that require skill and knowledge. These programs don’t even try to compete with the mow, blow, and go guys. Clients are willing to pay top dollar to keep their gardens in pristine condition.

With water becoming such a precious commodity, especially in the west, companies are creating water management divisions within their companies. These specialists conduct water audits to look for the inefficient aspects of irrigation systems. Smart controllers are installed, and old nozzles are replaced with water efficient spray heads. Irrigation systems are being re-zoned for maximum efficiency. These services are highly profitable since clients are willing to pay for programs that can save them significant money on water bills.

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Acquisitions. Acquisitions have been happening in the Green Industry for years. The new trend, though, is that design-build companies are now being acquired in increasing numbers. Acquisition targets in the past were once reserved for large commercial maintenance companies with a solid book of business. That has all changed in the past two years. Highly profitable design-build companies are now being acquired at a fast pace with large multiples. The venture capitalists and larger companies in the Green Industry are now realizing that high end residential design-build is very profitable. This trend continues to evolve.

There are a number of headwinds on the horizon that could negatively impact the growth of design-build. Things like: potential recession; continued high inflation; and continued labor shortages. How long the good times continue to roll for this segment of the Green Industry remains to be seen. But so far, so good. These are exciting times for the landscape design-build industry.

Judson GriggsGriggs is Head Harvester at The Harvest Landscape Consulting Group, where he offers consulting, education, and design-build peer groups to enhance the selling, management, and profit of projects. With over 45 years of design-build experience and perspective, he has personally managed more than $75M in design-build sales. Additionally, Jud has developed marketing programs that increase revenue by over 30% in one year. The Harvest Group currently does business in 42 states and five countries working with landscape business owners to increase their sales, grow their bottom line, and sell their company when ready.

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