Extreme Landscaping: Behnke Nurseries Edition

16 Nov, 2008 By: Cadalyst Staff

Family-owned nursery calls on Vectorworks Landmark to design in a pinch.

When the producers of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition approached Behnke Nurseries about participating in the reality show's seventh season premiere, the family-owned nursery knew it faced a challenge. With just two weeks before filming was scheduled to begin, the company accepted and got to work.

The nursery’s challenge was to design a traditional landscape to complement a brand new, 4,800 square foot, Colonial-style house. The two-hour season opener would feature a single mother with four kids of her own as well as ten nieces and nephews who were in danger of being forced into foster care because the family had been living in a hotel.

The nursery's landscape design and installation department had only one week to design a plan for the one-acre lot and just three days to complete installation -- a third of the time the crew would normally spend on a project this size. With the tireless efforts of volunteers working nearly around the clock, the support of several donors, and help from Vectorworks Landmark, Behnkes got the job done.

Extreme Capabilities

Using Nemetschek's landscape design program, Vectorworks Landmark, Behnke's landscape designer Andrea Becerril created a design that included front-yard plantings, a U-shaped driveway in the front, and a patio and outdoor fireplace in the back, with plantings. The plan also included a mature tree and brick-seat wall to serve as a memorial for the new homeowner's sister who had died of cancer.

Figure 1: Becerril used Vectorworks Landmark to design a brick memorial seat for the new homeowner.
Click image for a larger view.

"The only directive was to design something with a clean, classic style, with lots of pops of color, and plenty of mature plants," said Becerril. "So we had free reign. Classic Homes e-mailed me PDFs of the house plans and property lines, which I imported right into Vectorworks Landmark and began working immediately."

Typically, Becerril imports all the information she can gather about a property before she begins to design. Such information can include a plat, existing site conditions, property lines, house plans, and dimensions for proposed additions. "Importing different types of files is a breeze with Vectorworks Landmark, whether they're PDFs, TIFFs, JPEGs, GIS data, or other CAD files," said Becerril. "Being able to import whatever file I need using Vectorworks gives me a complete picture of what I'm working with."

Extreme Flexibility
The program includes a suite of 2D precision drafting tools, site-information modeling, free-form modeling, and a plant database. Becerril used the custom tools available in the program to begin her design and included a custom title block to give the design a signature look.


Figure 2: Vectorworks Landmark helped Behnke Nurseries landscape for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
Click image for a larger view.

"I include as much detail as I can about bed lines, drainage work, and hardscapes, so clients can see exactly what they'll be getting -- and having all the right tools right at my fingertips in Vectorworks Landmark allows me to do that quickly and easily," said Becerril.

"The Hardscape tool is a fantastic feature, as I can add patterns and hatches, which put nice finishing touches on plans for clients. The Freehand tool really lets me be creative with bed lines, and doesn't confine me to certain shapes. When it comes time to do reports, which, for us, are mainly plant and hardscape materials quantities, I can easily figure out square footages and quantities using Vectorworks.

"Using the Place Plant tool ensured everything was accurate down to each plant we used on the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition project. Each symbol was labeled, so we gave the family a copy of the plan to keep, too."

Figure 3: The Place Plant tool ensured that every plant was accurately labeled.
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Extreme Collaboration
Although Becerril received PDFs of the house plans for the show, she prefers AutoCAD files because she can convert them to Vectorworks and use them as a basis for landscaping designs in Landmark.

"We work closely with architecture firms who use different CAD programs, and the ease of transferring information through Vectorworks is amazing. Even though we're working with different programs, we're completely compatible and can exchange quick e-mails with updates without a problem."

Extreme Speed
On the first day of the landscaping installation, after the house was built, show producers realized that the originally proposed U-shaped gravel driveway lined with pavers would overpower the front yard. And the backyard patio design didn't take into account emergency-escape windows and a steep grade. The whole plan had to be revised on the spot, as crews had just two days left to complete the installation.

It was a hot day, and Becerril had left her laptop at the office. Because the software prints to scale, she was able to quickly sketch a new design over the 24" x 36" printout the team had on site. She made changes to the Vectorworks files later that night.

The new design included a parking pad to the side of the home and a sidewalk that extended from the front door across the parking pad and down to the street -- all in pavers, which doubled the quantity of pavers originally proposed. The patio design remained the same, but it was moved farther from the house and built up several feet to accommodate the windows and grade.

Figure 4: Despite last-minute technical difficulties, Becerril was able to redesign the front yard to include a sidewalk lined in pavers.
Click image for a larger view.

"I can't emphasize enough that Vectorworks is a whole lot faster than drawing by hand, and it takes only seconds to make changes and edits," said Becerril, who believes that the project wouldn't have been as complete or professional without the software. "If I had to draw everything by hand, I'd never get this amount of work done. I can give clients several design options and let them know what they'll all look like -- with a minimum of production time and effort. Yet, I can still achieve the hand-sketched look they like," she added, referring to the hand-rendering tools in Vectorworks that enable her to visualize her designs. 

Becerril evaluated a variety of CAD-based landscaping design products in her quest to find the one that best met her needs. Ultimately, it was Vectorworks Landmark that offered the best combination of sophistication, affordability, and built-in features -- including libraries, plant symbols, plant table reports, lighting, hardscaping, and so on.

Behnke Nurseries has been so satisfied with Becerril's productivity and results that the company aims to have all its designers up and running on the software for next season.

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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