Collaboration is essential between civil engineers and landscape architects to produce quality projects. When a project is a true collaboration, everyone wins. The client will have a more successful and well received product than if it had been designed by just one discipline or just one individual. Collaboration is simply an exchange of ideas. It is inviting all team members to contribute and ask, “what do you think of this approach or is there a better solution?”.
It’s Mine! Engineers and architects often tend to get caught up designing in a vacuum either due to time constraints, ego or focus. I know when I was just starting out in my career, I did not want to present my ideas to coworkers or supervisors because I did not want the design to be criticized or challenged. I wanted it to be MINE! That changed with some painful experiences and learning that I did not know as much as I thought I did. I also learned that if the design process is collaborative, less mistakes are made, a consensus can be developed, and you simply end up with a better product. Success is a welcomed byproduct of humility.
Worth the Extra Effort Collaboration can indeed be bit of extra effort. It is easier to design in a vacuum as opposed to with a team – you just won’t end up with the best result. If you are not open to ideas from others and you truly want the project to be a ME project, then collaboration is going to be painful. Being willing to hear the perspective of other team members really will result in a better project. An example of this is recently I (landscape architect) was struggling getting a couple of ADA ramps and crosswalks to work for a variety of reasons on a streetscape project. A team civil engineer suggested not having a crosswalk at all in one location and pulling the crosswalk back significantly in the other location. The crosswalk location exercise revealed a site distance issue, so the civil engineer reached out to our traffic engineers. So another discipline was collaborated with to take the project to the next level, and they suggested we consider making the intersection a 4-way stop. This would eliminate the site distance issue, allow for a safer crosswalk design, and improve traffic operations at the intersection. The client loved it!
Receptive Communication is Key Collaboration demands good communication. Your ideas need to be presented in a team spirit/inclusive direction. “Have you considered this option?” “What if we took this approach instead?” As opposed to “here is the design solution and we just need to go with this one.” You have to be open to listening to different solutions. If you want to have a productive discussion, consider bringing “light” to the subject and not “heat.” Humor can go a long way to producing a collaborative dynamic.
Foresite Group has civil engineers and landscape architects (as well as four other disciplines!) on the same team. Collaboration and promotion of teamwork is one of the reasons we feel landscape architects and civil engineers need to be working together – working together not just in the same company or under the same roof or in the same group, but on the same TEAM!
Obviously, anyone who has worked with both civil engineers and landscape architects knows that the two design practices approach projects from very different directions and mindsets. Constructed projects that were heavy on the engineering side can lack an aesthetic quality or pedestrian functionality. On the other hand, projects designed solely by a landscape architect suffer in terms of necessary civil requirements of the site. Having civil engineers and landscape architects working together on the same team and on the same projects is how our Greenspace and Land Design Division is assembled. It is essential in promoting a collaborative atmosphere and ultimately ending up with the best project possible. It is by this teaming effort that we have found collaboration can work to truly transform good designs into great designs.
About Jason Weckerly
Jason Weckerly leads Foresite Group’s Landscape Architecture Practice Area nationwide. As a Landscape Architect, Jason has always been interested in how an existing site can cohesively blend with the proposed program. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Design from Arizona State University and has been with Foresite Group since 2011. With more than 25 years of experience, Jason has a special interest in in the sustainability of projects well after the contractor has left the site, as well an aesthetic approach of less is more.