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Landscape Contractor Standard of Care: The Pros and Cons of Using a Landscape Design-Build Contractor

Landscape architects are utilized to design, prepare plans, make submittals and obtain permits for commercial, sub-division and public works projects. Their plans and specifications are part of the contract documents provided from their client to landscape contractors for bidding purposes. The landscape contractor performs a plan "takeoff", documenting all of the quantities, specifications, notes, and details and then creates their pricing and proposal based on that information.

In part one of the series Landscape Contractors Standard of Care, I discussed why a professional landscape contractor is held to a higher standard of care than an ordinary laymen. Wikipedia defines standard of care as “In certain industries and professions, the standard of care is determined by the standard that would be exercised by the reasonably prudent manufacturer of a product, or the reasonably prudent professional in that line of work.”
The previous article focused on primary contract documents required for professional landscape contractors and their clients. Contract documents focus on a design, plans, specifications, notes and details that provide the contractor information on how to price, bid, and construct a project. But what happens where there are no landscape plans or specifications for a project, no information is provided to the contractor to provide an accurate bid, quote or estimate and if awarded the contract, no information on how to construct the project?

More often than not, residential and small business clients have not contracted with a landscape architect to develop a landscape design for their property, leaving the landscape design, proposal, and installation up to the landscape contractor. The Owner may not be aware that in this scenario, the contractor is fulfilling the role of landscape architect and contractor, a process known as design-build. The Wikipedia definition for design-build is “It is a method to deliver a project in which the design and construction services are contracted by a single entity known as the design–builder or design–build contractor.”

Then and Now

The traditional method of construction relied upon delegation of project design to an architect or landscape architect and delegating construction responsibilities to the general or landscape contractor. For many industries and project types, this method is still fundamental to most forms of construction. However, design-build contracts and design-build contractors are increasingly being used for a variety of projects and reasons. Historically, the design-build concept dates back several millennia as the “Master Builder” concept, whereby one master contractor was responsible for an entire project.

The concept of design-build places the responsibility for the design, implementation and construction upon a single contracting entity. From an Owner or Agency viewpoint, design-build may be preferable as it creates a single point of responsibility upon the contractor. The design-build concept may reduce client risk and overall project cost. If a client can minimize risk and potential project costs, why not always use a design-build contract method? What are the legal implications when a landscape contractor performs landscape design work?

By Rappoport Development Consulting Services LLC
Certified and Registered Consulting Arborist, Landscape, Horticulture & Land Development Expert
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeremy Rappoport, President of RDCS LLC
Jeremy Rappoport is President of Rappoport Development Consulting Services LLC, located in San Diego, California. RDCS LLC is a professional consulting firm providing expert witness consulting services for attorneys and insurers and environmental consulting services as a certified tree arborist and tree risk assessor, licensed landscape contractor, California plant expert and professional horticulturist, and land development professional.
Mr. Rappoport studied landscape architecture, contracting and horticulture and graduated with a B.S. degree in ornamental horticulture from California Polytechnic University, Pomona.

Copyright Rappoport Development Consulting Services LLC

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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