If you were in college in the 80’s like me, technology was not something incorporated into your field of study (because quite honestly, it didn’t exist.) I was a Landscape Architecture student at Penn State at that time, where we learned everything in the classical fashion. Our tools of the trade were: Pen, protractor, vellum paper, engineers scale, markers and even used Polaroid pictures to document site visits. I learned techniques of drafting, rendering and had an entire class just on lettering. While those arts are still extremely valuable, they are now only the icing on the cake from what 3D design technology has done to transform my residential design business.
I was a purist for many years preparing only hand drawings for my customers. Typically, hand drawing is still what is generally used by most of the landscape designers and contractors in my area, even today. In 2009, however, something significant happened in my life. In November, I was unexpectedly laid off from the large design-build firm I worked for. After the reality of my situation set in, I realized that this situation required me to reinvent myself to remain current and to have the ability to compete. At a networking group, my friend Lea Frederick of Vue Custom Construction, (incredible shotcrete pool builder, www.vuecustompools.com) told me that she used Structure Studios 3D imaging pool design software POOL STUDIO. She suggested that I should look into their landscape architecture companion program VIZTERRA. I immediately saw the quality of the graphics and the benefit it could give me over the landscape designers of my area. I downloaded and tried the free demo of the software and became a believer! It took me a few months to get up to speed, but their incredible customer resources of tutorial videos and ever present customer service reps helped me through the learning curve in record time.
The benefits of using VIZTERRA for my business became quickly evident:
1. Allows your customers to SEE their project before they install it: Like me, most of my clients are very visual. When using hand drawings, even with rendering, I often had difficulty impressing the design intent on some of my more visual customers. Now, that the client can SEE the layout, the whole design process has become more streamlined and interactive.
2. Ease of revisions: If you remember utilizing hand drawing, revisions were the bane of our existence. NOW, changes can be made in a fraction of the time and incorporated into new versions of the original plan.
3. Ease of Changing Plant Material and site fixtures: VIZTERRA also has an extensive plant library which they continually update. Changes to plant material can be made in a snap. Along with the plant library, they also have an extensive library of site accessories and furniture to add the finishing touches to your project. You can even add people to the final presentation.
4. Ease of Changing Building Materials: Landscape elements can be explored using different materials in a new and exciting way. Frequently, I will change the material with the customer during a presentation, so they can see the range of design possibilities. Custom materials are also able to be imported, if there is a particular material not found in the existing library.
5. Measuring and Area tools: I use the measuring and area tools for estimating purposes. Unlike manually measuring a plan with a scale, I now just click on the patio or walkway and the area is automatically calculated for me.
6. Terrain Capabilities: In the 3D imaging, actual terrain elevations can be imported and visualized as you design the project. A customer can see final grades and the effects that will have on their design in a way that they can visualize.
7. Video and Snap Shot Capabilities: These capabilities allows the designer to create and upload videos of the project ‘walk through’ to Youtube for customers to view. I use this feature to convince and win a customer who may be indecisive on a design revision. The snapshot feature is nice to be able to email pictures to customers as changes are made to the design.
8. Updates and Support from Structure Studios: Structure Studios is constantly reviewing and updating their software to improve the experience for the user. I recently emailed the CEO a problem that I was having with a particular application of the software. He just personally notified me that they evaluated my problem, and this change is becoming incorporated in their latest update. How many CEO’s do that?
9. Competitive Edge and Cost: The competitive edge this software has given me in my area is immeasurable. Customers call and let me know that they were very interested in the 3D capabilities of my designs. The cost too is competitive and available for even the leanest budget.
10. More Sales: My sales have increased exponentially since incorporating this software in my design and sales process.
The project here is one I collaborated with Sonoma Building Company, (www.sonomabuilding.com) out of Winston-Salem. It was a submission for the Parade of Homes. you can see the accuracy of the 3D design: The image on the left is the project in the design phase, with the picture of the finished project on the right.
While I still use AUTOCAD for precise construction drawings, I have found that VIZTERRA is an invaluable sales tool for my residential design customers. It has revolutionized the way I do business.
You can see more of my 3D presentation using VIZTERRA on my YouTube channel below:
(Please note: this is an independent review, and I am NOT a paid endorser, just a happy user!)
About the Author:
Lori Hawkins, RLA, ASLA has been a registered landscape architect and active in the landscape design/build industry for over 29 years. For additional inspiring project pictures, design ideas, or great garden gifts, take a look at these websites:
GARDEN ART AND GIFTS: WWW.TriadGarden.com
DESIGN WORK PORTFOLIO: WWW.HawkinsLA.com