Perfect House Placement: Site Planning Tips for Architects in Bozeman & Big Sky, MT

Written By: Mason Shaffer

Jun 29, 2020 11:48:53 AM

As an architect, you make a lot of important decisions. And you know that the decisions you make have a direct impact on the homes you create—and, in looking at the big picture, ultimately, peoples’ lives. 

That’s a lot of responsibility—and frankly, a lot of pressure. But it’s also probably one of the reasons that you love what you do. You’re making a difference in peoples’ lives.

All that being said, when it comes to decision making, you know that there are some areas where you are more comfortable than others. After all, you can’t be expected to be an expert in everything. That’s why partnering with others to fill in any knowledge gaps can help you achieve success.

When it comes to site planning, this is an area where we think a partnership between architects and landscape professionals can help with the perfect house placement. While aspects of the outdoors may be unfamiliar territory for architects, it is the very focus of skilled landscape design professionals. They may have valuable contributions to your plans that can help make you look your best.

At Blanchford Landscape Group, we value working relationships with architects in Bozeman and Big Sky, MT. Here are some of the most important things that we’ve learned in the merging of these two worlds. 

A Landscape Professional Understands the Evolving Nature of a Landscape

Over the years, we have learned that architects definitely excel at things like situating a house to allow for the perfect views. Or, taking wind direction into consideration when performing site planning. Taking these outdoor aspects into account is really important and we commend architects for considering them. 

House placement and landscape aerial view in Montana

But one thing that can get easily overlooked is the fact that the landscape is a living and evolving thing that won’t be the same 5 or 10 years down the road as it is today. Trees will grow taller and their root systems will extend outward. Shrubs will grow in width and in height. Flowers will spread. Some of these things will change the views—and some will even have an impact on wind patterns.

Of course, architects are not expected to be horticultural experts. After all, you had enough schooling and training in architecture! You certainly didn’t have time to be studying the science and development of plants. How could you possibly know which trees on the property will grow the tallest or what shrubs are going to dramatically change? 

The truth is, your clients may not expect you to know this, but that’s not going to stop them from being unhappy if the landscape has an unexpected (and unwanted) impact on their home’s location. 

This is where a landscape professional can really help. They can inform you of how the landscape will evolve and change with time and how that may impact your plans. Being better educated on how the landscape will look 5, 10, or 15 years down the road is important so that you make wise choices now. 

The last thing that you want is for that million-dollar view to be blocked or for a tree’s roots to suddenly cause the homeowners any unexpected trouble. You want as many potential problems as possible to be accounted for as you make the ideal site planning decisions now.

A Landscape Professional Can Help You Keep the Outdoor Living Experience in Mind

People love Bozeman and Big Sky, MT for the magnificent landscape. It’s nature at its best. So, it almost goes without saying that future homeowners are going to want some sort of outdoor living area where they can maximize their time outside.

Outdoor living space with appropriate house placement

Site planning ultimately has an impact on the way that outdoor living areas can be designed and created. Not taking the future outdoor design plans into account now can have unintended negative consequences. 

While architects are primarily thinking about the home’s interior when making site planning decisions, the outdoor details like elevation, the direction of prevailing winds, potential views from an outdoor living area, and exposure should not be afterthoughts when it comes to incorporating an outdoor space. You can count on the fact that future homeowners are going to want to enjoy their outdoor areas as much as they enjoy their indoor ones.

People also want their outdoor spaces to feel like a true extension of their home. They want to feel as though their home extends right into the outdoors. If thought is not given to creating these outdoor spaces at the time of site planning, the experience could be disjointed. 

This is where a landscape professional can step in and assist in details that might be potentially overlooked. A landscape pro is going to know which details really need to be accounted for during the design process and how they will impact the outdoor living space. The complete site (the home itself and the outdoor space) are best designed together, taking everything into account.

In other words, we truly believe the best designs are those that have “blurred lines.” That means the home, both inside and out, comes together in a “complete way.” Whenever we can utilize the same materials that were used inside of the home and on it’s exterior within the landscape design, the project really does look its best—and that’s a win for everyone.

A Landscape Professional Can Help Prevent Site Disturbance

One aspect of site planning that often gets overlooked is how much it’s going to disturb the site. A lot of times, the landscape can get destroyed in the process of building a home. But this is an area where a landscape professional can step in and help.

We often get called in to “recreate the natural site” after it’s already been destroyed in the home building process and, we have to be honest, that’s not easy to do. It’s really much more prudent to preserve what’s already there than to try to recreate it after the fact.

House and patio with undisturbed natural landscape

We often hear from homeowners who tell us they “wish more attention had been paid to preserving the existing landscape.” We’ve also talked to homeowners who lament the loss of certain trees that they would have loved to keep, it’s not like we can just come in and replace a mature tree that took decades to grow.

We understand that attempting to preserve the landscape during building can be challenging and it can often cost the homeowner more money for the building process. But in talking to homeowners over the years, they often express that they would have spent more money on the front end if it meant preserving the beautiful landscape they fell in love with on the site. Plus, reclamation costs can be extreme so sometimes that money spent on the front end can actually be a saving from what they’d be spending to try and recreate the environment.

As landscape professionals, we can also help guide architects in terms of which ecosystem areas are delicate and may not be able to be recreated. There may be some ecosystem zones that are more important to preserve than others. We can provide consultation on this and help architects to make eco-friendly choices.

In the end, all of this helps the house to stay fitting to the site that it’s in. The home and the landscape should complement one another and that is best achieved when as much of the natural landscape remains intact as possible. 

Finding the Right Partnership for Success

If you’ve worked with a landscape designer in the past and not had the best working relationship or results, you might be reluctant to try it again. Or, perhaps you’ve never worked with a landscape designer but you can’t imagine how you’d be able to work together.

It all comes down to finding the right partnership. Not all landscape professionals are necessarily going to be able to help you with all of these points. Not all landscape pros have the horticultural knowledge or experience to be able to make the types of recommendations and suggestions that we’ve been talking about.

Not only that, but some landscape professionals are going to be uncomfortable with “speaking the language” of architects. They might not really understand what you do or what they can do to help you.

In a worst-case scenario, there are even some companies that will create the dynamics of a power struggle. They might want to take charge or be condescending in nature. 

But at Blanchford Landscape Group, we understand the design and site planning ultimately falls in the hands of the architect, who will take the lead. We are there to offer any knowledge that can help fill in the gaps and make you look your best. 

We can speak the “design speak” that architects use. We understand that language can echo it into the solution. A lot of architects seem to appreciate working with a landscape designer that has an understanding of their world, can offer some advice, but ultimately defers to their expertise as the lead. We are not out to work against you or to create a power struggle. We’re there to help make you look good. 

A Professional You Can Count On

At the end of the day, a lot of this comes down to forming a trusted partnership. When we work with architects in Bozeman and Big Sky, MT, it’s successful because of that mutual trust and the drive of working toward the same goal.

beautiful house and landscape near Bozeman, MT

We also understand that it’s your reputation on the line, so we believe in helping you look your best. We’re there to offer help where we can but certainly not to take over or to create contention.

At Blanchford Landscape Group, we are looking to contribute our expertise in a way that will make the finished home a success.

If you’re an architect in the Bozeman or Big Sky, MT area and would like to learn more about how we can help on your next project, let’s connect. We love partnering with winners and would love a chance to succeed together.

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Topics: Architects

Posted by Mason Shaffer

Mason has earned both a degree in Ornamental Horticulture and a graduate degree in Landscape Architecture prior to joining our team in 2011. Outside of work, you will find Mason spending quality time with his wife and two little girls. They will likely be exploring the outdoors, camping, fishing, golfing, planting, or just playing in the dirt.

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