Safety – as the services and utilities are noted and given to the contractors, nasty surprises during site excavations are minimised, and also taken into account to impact on costs.
The build – the setting out drawings give the contractor the necessary information for marking out foundations for steps, walls, patios etc at the start of the build. The survey and the setting out drawings map on to each other, thus ensuring the location of these features are built exactly as designed and planned.
What survey information is needed to design your garden?
For me, there are two components to a garden survey that need to be considered: the physical and the visual.
The physical survey records the topography of the site. It includes recording the size of the garden, and the existing features within it, as well as the level changes. Features can include fences, boundary walls, patios, paths, steps, borders and key planting such as trees and hedges. Utilities are also recorded such as drains, drainpipes, electricity and gas. The footprint of the house and associated buildings, access points and windows etc. are also noted.
It’s a long, detailed list. It is crucial because it provides a full, detailed and accurate recording of your garden and how it relates to your house.
Issues that need addressing such as drainage, level changes and access, which may not have been raised at the Brief stage, may also come to light here too.
The visual survey (or photographic survey), is a great way to record the ‘sense of the place’ (Genius Loci) and is carried out by the designer. It’s important to take into account what you can see beyond the garden boundaries whether it be neighbouring houses or long distance views to the countryside (no matter how small this might be!)
Views to be softened, vistas to be framed and areas to be screened are observed. It’s also important to photograph the views and vistas from the house onto the garden, and from the garden back to the house.
I use specialist 3D CAD software (Vectorworks) to import survey information into, and create a scaled baseplan which is very accurate. This software, which has many additional features, also allows me to note the level changes around the garden and how these will be also taken into account in the design. Using 3D software is more effective than just looking at your garden in plan view only (directly from above, a bird’s eye view), as the spatial design becomes more integral to the process.
For larger and/or more complex gardens I hire a third-party professional surveyor to carry out the physical survey. This is because they have access to specialist equipment and can measure a site accurately and very efficiently. Gardens in and around Ilkley are often sloping and recording the level changes accurately are very important to me. They also give me additional information that I can’t normally record myself, but will add value to the design.
After the surveyor has visited the garden, the information is sent to me so that I can create a detailed siteplan using 3D CAD software.
Let’s go back to Skipton and the mostly flat, blank canvas garden in Gloria and John’s new build home.
Using long tapes and rules, I noted the height and shape of walls, as I knew they would influence the design I had in mind. I also took photos of views and vistas helping me to work out what needed framing, softening and screening.
During the survey I spotted two issues. Firstly, the builders working on an adjacent development had damaged a boundary stone pillar. Once informed, Gloria contacted the foreman and arranged for it to be fixed. Secondly, the ground conditions at the side of the house and beyond their boundary was very wet and noted how this might impact on levels and drainage long the side path.
How much to garden surveys cost?
A professional survey can be anywhere between £300 – £500 for a small, average garden. The more complex a garden with existing features, trees and significant level changes will cost more. Larger gardens like these are typically £500-800. For large estates with extensive land and woods for example, over £1500.
Surveys – an essential step in garden design
I hope this blog has helped explain why surveys are such a necessary part of the garden design process. A survey might incur a cost up front, but you can see how essential it is in the long run.
If you have any questions about garden design, I’d love to hear from you. You can contact me here.
Thank you for reading,
How to survey a garden [part 1] Successful Garden Design https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDxUS9F8NAQ
A useful introductory video here on measuring your garden https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDxUS9F8NAQ
How to survey your garden – and draw a scale plan https://www.successfulgardendesign.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Survey-your-Garden.pdf
There are also courses available online