Professional Roles -- The Landscape Architect

Elizabeth Tomlinson  |  2/24/2009 12:03:54 AM

What does a landscape architect do, generally?

The role of a landscape architect is varied and can be complex. For clarity’s sake, we will concentrate on the residential work of landscape architects for homeowners in this article, although work outside of the residential sector is a large part of the landscape architecture profession. In very broad terms, a residential landscape architect generally develops and provides design plans for a homeowner’s property that utilizes both landscape and hardscape (built structures or constructed elements such as patios or arbors) elements to provide beauty and function for the homeowner, as well as to solve any related issues.

For what specific tasks would you seek the services of someone in this profession?

In new construction, landscape architects can come into a project at the very start, such as helping the architect or homeowner site the proposed house on the property. Siting a structure refers to determining where on a property a structure should be placed with respect to drainage, orientation (to take advantage of sun and wind), any environmental sensitivity, any possible historic artifacts or structures, relationship of house to lot, scale, etc. Whether in new construction or existing, the landscape architect will perform a site analysis and evaluation before any designs are started.

A typical residential landscape project consists of site analysis and evaluation, schematic (or rough) design, design development, and then construction documents. Construction documents are the plans that give every detail needed in order to install the design as set out in the plan. The landscape architect may then hand the plans over to the homeowner, oversee installation, or provide the crew and contractor for the installation in the case of design/build firms. Many landscape architects will make a follow-up visit to see how the landscape is working for the homeowner.

Besides hiring a landscape architect to create a landscape plan for your property, a homeowner might also wish to hire one if  he or she needs grading, drainage work done,  or if they have storm water management problems. Landscape architects also can be a resource for making your home and property more sustainable. For instance, they may consult on the possibility of installing a “green” roof and design it. A “green roof” can refer to anything from a sod roof to a full garden. (Structural issues must be addressed.)

What licenses and certifications are available in this profession and what requirements are needed to obtain these?

Landscape architecture is a professional degree which means a Louisiana license in landscape architecture from the Louisiana Horticulture Commission is required to perform landscape architecture and to be called a landscape architect in Louisiana. To obtain a Louisiana license, the applicant must meet certain education requirements, experience, or a combination of the two as set forth in Title 7 of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Louisiana Horticulture Commission's Rules and Regulations. After meeting these requirements, the applicant must then take the national Landscape Architect Registration Examination (LARE). Successful completion of the LARE will allow the candidate to apply for a Louisiana license to practice landscape architecture. Eight hours of continuing education credit must be completed annually by the landscape architect in order to maintain a current status of his license.

In addition, a licensed landscape architect may choose to become certified by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards (CLARB). A CLARB certification is formal recognition that a landscape architect meets or exceeds CLARB’s standards for education, experience, examination, and professional conduct. The applicant must provide current and verifiable documentation that he satisfies all of the requirements in accordance with CLARB’s evaluation criteria.

How can the consumer verify that the professional has the certification he/she purports to have?

If a consumer wishes to verify the landscape architect's license, he should contact the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Louisiana Horticulture Commission at 225-952-8100. To verify CLARB certification, the consumer can contact the council through their website: www.clarb.org.

What license is required in Louisiana to do what type of work?

Landscape architecture is a professional degree. A Louisiana license in landscape architecture from the Louisiana Horticulture Commission is required to perform landscape architecture and to be called a landscape architect in Louisiana.

What is the typical pay basis for this profession and what is the typical cost?

Landscape architecture fees are generally determined by the scope of a project and rates vary.

Fees are usually based on one of the following options:

  • An hourly rate,
  • A lump sum,
  • A lump sum plus expenses,
  • Unit pricing based on the area of the property ($/square foot), or
  • Any combination of the above.

How does a person become a landscape architect?

Proof of successful completion of the LARE is needed to become a licensed landscape architect in Louisiana. To be eligible to take the exam, the applicant must hold a degree in landscape architecture or a degree in another field, but with at least 55 credit hours in landscape architecture from an accredited university or college program. The applicant must also have completed an internship equivalent to one year under the direct supervision of a licensed professional in landscape architecture or contracting, architecture, or engineering. (Some other professions may be accepted.)

If an applicant does not have a degree and does not meet the above qualifications, he or she may provide proof of six years of practical experience under direct supervision of a licensed professional. In addition, an applicant must provide at least six examples of work done in a minimum of three of the following areas: site design, staking or layout plan, grading plan, irrigation plan, construction details, planting plan with plant list, and specifications.

The third option that would make an applicant eligible to take the LARE would be possessing a combination of education and experience equal to the above requirements. Credit of up to two years of landscape architecture education may be given to those applicants who hold a degree in a related field such as horticulture/plant science, civil engineering, urban design and others. A committee appointed by the Commission determines if the requisite qualifications have been met in order for the applicant to take the exam.

Upon successful completion of the LARE, the applicant will then be able to get a Louisiana license to practice landscape architecture. The LARE is a national exam consisting of five sections which test the applicants knowledge and ability to perform landscape architectural services without endangering the health, safety, and welfare of the public. The applicant for licensure may re-take sections of the exam in which he did not pass, but does not have to repeat those sections he passed at a previous time. Only upon satisfactory completion of all of the sections can he obtain his license.

In addition, a licensed landscape architect may choose to become certified by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards (CLARB). A CLARB certification is formal recognition that a landscape architect meets or exceeds CLARB’s standards for education, experience, examination, and professional conduct. The applicant must provide current and verifiable documentation that he satisfies all of the requirements in accordance with CLARB’s evaluation criteria.

How does a landscape architect who is licensed or certified for providing service in another state get authorization to provide services in Louisiana?

Landscape architects licensed in other states who wish to practice in Louisiana must submit proof of successful completion of a CLARB-approved exam or an exam approved by the Commission. The requirements for licensure in the other state must be at least equal to those in Louisiana. If the submission is approved, then the applicant will only need to pass the Louisiana section of the exam to obtain a license.

Note: It is always good to have a written contract with any building professional to protect both you and the professional.

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