In March’s issue of Pro Landscaper we asked the question ‘ The timescale between submitting a tender and finding out if the work is going ahead is increasing. What main reasons are clients giving for the delay?’. Four garden designers shared their experiences of delays in the tendering process and how ‘uncertain times’ are also having an impact on their clients’ budgets.
Colin Knapman, Owner of CK Garden Design
It’s an odd coincidence that I am asked this particular question at this time, as I am currently negotiating a project that has been running for two years still with no final decision. It’s for a roof garden overlooked by a block of luxury flats on the coastline of Bournemouth. The delay has been the residents committee, getting everyone to agree, and the property management company consulting structural engineers before signing it off.
So, for me, as a self-employed garden designer and project manager it’s the private individual client every time. I get commissioned to carry out the design, for which I get paid whether I win the job or not, so if I don’t win the job, I can move on.
Most clients want it done yesterday, especially with spring and summer coming on, so the pressure is on me to find a suitable contractor available to carry out the work as quickly as possible.
Robert Barker, principal designer at Robert Barker Landscape & Garden Design
We work very closely with a variety of architects on a number of projects and so our introduction to clients usually takes place before any property building works have been carried out. During this early introduction we are greeted with very excited clients but unfortunately, whether it is a new build, extension or re-development, the building work consistently takes longer than expected and ultimately these expensive delays effect the overall budget, which then has a huge knock on effect for us. Due to such an early introduction from the architects, our clients appreciate the importance of the garden and will have factored this into their plans but due to the strains the building works can cause, we are often asked to delay garden builds or have to downscale projects to accommodate. Sadly, these uncertain times we are living in create vulnerable budgets, which can’t help but instil trepidation in clients.
Catherine Clancy, owner of Catherine Clancy Garden Design
I don’t think that the timescales between submitting a tender and finding out if the work is going ahead is increasing. Timescales vary so much between jobs, there doesn’t seem to be any pattern to it at all. One garden I designed in 2016, took about a year before it was assigned to a landscaper, and is only nearing completion now – the landscaping works were bundled in with the house refurbishment, resulting in a lengthy tendering/selection process, and the garden was one of the last pieces to get done. Another garden landscaping job completed just a few weeks ago had less than a day between my client receiving the completed tender and giving the go ahead to the landscaper to build the garden. I’ve got three designs out for tender at the moment and I know one of them will take a while to get the go ahead, just due to the unsatisfactory quotes received to date from landscapers, and the need to re-tender.
Lee Bestall, MD & founder of Bestall & Co Landscape Design
We recently did some in house evaluation around this, and surprisingly the average length of time from initially meeting a client to day one on site is two years! As a designer rather than a landscaper, our figures slightly buck this trend as we generally get an answer as to whether they would like to proceed with a design within seven days in the majority of cases. I guess this is because our pre-consultation ‘qualifying’ process is so rigorous.
As for clients accepting tenders, its generally much longer, varying from a number of weeks to four years with their main reasons being that it costs significantly more than they imagined. Clients then come back to us once they have their finances in order (which can sometimes just mean moving money around). Another reason is that people are generally contacting us much earlier in the process (mainly driven by a need to dispense planning conditions) than previously which is great, but this naturally lengthens the period of time which a clients is ‘on the books’
Next months agenda question is ‘ What can we do as an industry to help fight climate change?’