Software For Design Services


Every design/build project is unique, but there are always common denominators. These are the elements that landscape contractors providing this service should have precise workflows set up for. There are software tools designed for the landscape industry to help deliver a great project. These focus on the particular capabilities needed for creating outdoor spaces for clients without compromising collaboration with architects and planners, sub-contractors, and suppliers. Ideally, a software for design should follow the project all the way from the drawing board, through the tendering process and, most important, through the whole build.

Specifically designed for the landscape industry is Vectorworks Landmark’s design and BIM software. With this dedicated CAD and BIM software, landscape contractors have access to all the tools from the Vectorworks suite; from management of GIS files and imagery, to full 2D and 3D modeling capabilities, as well as a plant tool, landscape areas, and hardscapes. And, users can make sun illustrations for the whole year to see where a property has deep shade and baking sun. This software can create 3D terrain models to develop and analyze designs, such as water run-off, slope percentage, and cut and fill. And, contractors can calculate irrigation systems for the most demanding site.

landscape design software
The Plant and Landscape Area tools in Vectorworks Landmark software provide detailed information on plant quantities without the need to place each individually. (Image: Courtesy of Vectorworks, Inc.)


A major benefit of the Landmark tool is that you can manage all steps of the design process within the same environment. You don’t need to export the 2D plan to a separate program to build a 3D model, and you don’t need to export the finished drawings for post-production and presentation. You design it once, with a fraction of an inch precision, and then manipulate this model to illustrate the various aspects of the project.

But design software can offer contractors much more than geometry capabilities. For instance, the Plant tool in the Landmark software provides expanded information beyond initial design. A plant in Vectorworks consists of three parts: the 2D geometry, the 3D geometry, and the data. Users are in full control of the 2D/3D look, and you can add all the information deemed necessary to the data part. The software will then use the data while also collating plant schedules and maintenance guides.

This tracking of data works on everything in Vectorworks—if you can draw it, the software can keep track of it. You can make a schedule of important information, such as the gradings of a site, hardscape areas with components, light fittings, planting bed edgings, cut and fill calculations.

Here are five top reasons to consider the use of design software in your projects:

  • Focus on driving the project forward, instead of tedious repetitive work. (I loathe doing things twice.) Software helps take over time-consuming chores.
  • Design software saves you money both by making you faster and by catching problems earlier. You can try things out at the planning stage instead of on-site. You can also keep an eye on the budget by assigning costs to all components of the design.
  • It saves time. Many software tools come packed with already created resources. For instance, Vectorworks has a library system for you to collect and store your own created resources.
  • It promotes collaboration, and this is a biggie. With Vectorworks, you can collaborate with other parties who are running different software, by import and export of a vast array of file formats as well as file referencing. You can share your models in the Vectorworks Cloud, so your collaborators and clients can interact with it.
  • Depending on the software chosen, it can assist for all project scales, from planting designs of back garden projects to housing development masterplans.

But it doesn’t matter how good a tool is if you don’t know how to use it. To help with this, Vectorworks University was launched last year—a free website for learning. There are webinars and training modules for a wide range of subjects. If you retain things better in an instructor-led environment, the company has a training department with scheduled courses for all disciplines. So, for users who prefer an instructor on hand, seeking a company with those resources should be top of mind.

Whether you are looking for a new design software or are in the early stages of offering design-build services, evaluate your needs to find the ideal tool. Ease of use, an array of relevant capabilities, and vendor support should be at the top of your list in considering the options that will help grow your business and deliver top-notch service to customers.

landscape design softwareOllikainen is a landscape designer and the landscape industry specialist at Vectorworks UK and is involved in the continuous work on BIM implementation. Her main focus is on workflow, collaboration, and information exchange, as well as working with the development team on making Vectorworks Landmark as user-friendly as possible. Ollikainen’s most recent job was as senior designer for Ann-Marie Powell Studio where she had the opportunity to run some of the studio’s largest projects.

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