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  • Writer's pictureArvind Dang

Designing of a beautiful Softscape (Landscape)


The design scope includes the following:

  • ·      Selection of the following and finalising the specifications of:

    • Trees

    • Plants for exterior and interior areas, etc

    • Ground covers

    • Grassing

    • Planters

  • ·      Providing technical guidelines for planting, layouts, spacing, quantity take off, watering, and fungi-control and maintenance  

  • ·      Designing of Golf course and other landscape sloping or uneven areas

  • ·      Providing design ideas to the Architect team for

    •   Swimming Pools and Spas

    •   Lawn Furniture

    •   Outdoor Kitchens

    •   Landscape Lighting

    • Watering system


Characteristics of a Robust softscape design can be measured vis a vis:

Architecture /horticulture-related aspects 

  • ·      Scenic beauty of the landscape

  • ·      Contributing to air purification 

  • ·      Selection of Plants/trees/shrubs etc installed as per planned specifications/sizes and aesthetically appealing in various spaces

·      Designing for efficient utilization of softscape space in the landscape area

  • ·      Introducing roof gardens

  • ·      Bringing in green walls

  • ·      Golf course contours and grassing quality meeting International and national standards  

MEP design-related aspects  

  • ·      Preservation of the environment

  • ·      Storm-water management

  • ·      Cleaning the soil and water

  • ·      Use of lighting as a powerful tool

  • ·      Ease of maintenance

Inputs that contribute to making a good Interior design include:

     1 Proposing the right choice of Trees/plants, planters, etc., in terms of specifications while optimizing costs :  

Types of softscape/ landscape items  

Key specifications of plants & trees (as required by customers and suggested by Horticulturists/designers or applicable quality standards)


Types (coconut palm, oak, pine, redwood, etc),

Sizes: Height, stem/trunk diameter, attached branches, canopy uniformity & fullness, leaves, flowers/fruits, etc, root, etc)

Ground covers -for areas like

 garden, landscape, kitchen, inside rooms, work areas 

 Choices: Flower Colour, fragrance, charm, sizes

Types:  rubber, wandering Jews, betel leaf, peace lily, fittonia-spotted plant, dummies-(Ixora, herbs, anthurium, hoya), etc.

wooly thyme, Irish moss, blue star creepers, Roman chamomile, lady’s mantle, Corsican mint, beach strawberries, and so on),

Grassing-(cool or warm season)

1Blade – flat, narrow, sharp, pointed, rounded hair-like e, V shape, visible vein, broad           

2colour/ Texture -soft, dense, dark green, pale green, spongy, pricky, stiff, carpet like              

3 Size growth-height, bunch type, quick, slow

4 Water-frequent, average, below average

5 Cool season- few examples-Bent grasses, Fine fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, Ryegrass, Tall fescue,     

6 Warm season -few examples -Bermuda, centipede, Zoysia, Dichondra, St. Augustine grass,

Golf course-9 holes or 18 holes

Specifications of different parts of a Golf course  

·      The tea box (teeing ground where hole begins),

·      fairway (30-50 meters from the hole with tight trimmed grass)

·      The green (where each hole is located, with cut short grass)

·      The rough (an area that surrounds the fairway with longer grass)

·       Hazards (ponds, lakes, creeks, etc), bunkers

Turf grass-durable, drought tolerant, climate-driven

Turf choices (Bermuda, Bentgrass, Fescue, Zoysia, Poa annua, Rye)

Planters-outdoor or indoor

types-Ceramic, plastic, wooden, concrete, nursery pots, garden-planter Urns, grow bags, window boxes, wall planters, vertical planting towers, hanging baskets, railing planters, raised beds terrariums globe containers, themed planters,

Physical-Dimensions, shapes, colour, texture,  weight, strength, weatherability, porous/drainage holes, durability, water circulation, ants proof,

and so on



 2 Incorporating, in Landscape(softscape) related design & drawings, good practices for planting or & installation of the following as per applicable Quality standards:


  • ·      Guying and planting of Trees, and plants, Ground covers, Grass

  • ·      Fertilisation  

  • ·      Transplanting

  • ·      Watering

  • ·      Handling

  • ·      Pest control

  • ·      Fungicides control

  • ·      Method of constructing Golf- course


3 Building quality in the designing process for Softscape using designing software:

·      Horticulturists proposing High-Quality

  • Trees Plants

  •   Ground covers, shrubs, etc

  •   Grass

  •   Planters

  •   Golf course

  •   Watering system

  •   Planting, growing, and maintenance of plants

·      Providing valuable inputs to other designers (architect or & interior designer or & MEP designer) for:

  •  Designing of swimming Pool, ponds, and waterbodies

  • Designing of Patios, Fencing, Driveways,

  • Designing Lawn /landscape furniture

  •   Designs for Landscape Lighting

  • Designing for the watering system

This may require using design software such as Idea spectrum Realtime landscape pro, NCH software dream plan, smart draw, etc., and other software options

Five stages for developing the design of Softscape    

More details can be found from my book available on Amazon as per below links

Book 1

Amazon link: India-


Amazon link-Global-



Design activities vary considerably from company to company but generally, there are 5 stages to designing the softscape as below. Whatever designing processes and software are used, designing must result in developing Robust designs by accomplishing the following:

  • ·       Build designs that are comprehensive, accurate  

  • Contributes to building quality in construction by incorporating national and international quality standards in BOQ/material specifications and construction processes

  • ·       Integrates statutory and safety requirements (if applicable) in the designs and drawings  

  • ·       Optimise project costs

  • ·       Enables efficient delivery of designs & drawings

  • ·       Incorporates maker-checker step in each design stage through the implementation   of segregation of duties concept


The 5 stages are:

·      1 Develop Concept designs

·      2 Develop a Detailed design

·      3 Develop Tenders (Technical design aspects

·      4 Estimating costs

·      5 Issuing As-built drawing

In the activities listed below, those marked ‘*’ reflect those activities which can have adverse statutory implications.

 Landscape designers use good design practices, and choose software based on expectations from clients .In this article, only those activities that can affect design adversely are captured

Stage 1 Activities that can adversely impact business


·      Not obtaining and not incorporating inputs (like types and sizes of plants, ground covers, planters, and plants for exterior and interior areas) from property owners, sales team, and design team functions in Building Softscape design

  • ·      Using unlicensed software while developing a concept design for Softscape*

  • ·      Not vetting the concept and detailed design /making compromises while vetting Softscape, in collaboration with, inhouse or outsourced Horticulture consultant, by skipping or compromising on important designs and drawings aspects such as below Vis a vis Softscape Features:

    • Tolerances on softscape material specifications and workmanship for installation

    •   Bill of quantities for Softscape- plants, ground covers, grassing, trees, planters, and plants    

    • National and international standards for quality   

    • Sizes and specifications for Softscape 

    • Softscape safety requirements *   

  • ·      Bribing mandatory Agencies (e.g., green building-related) which approve the Softscape relevant for issuing compliance *



Stage 2 Activities that can adversely impact business


  • ·      Design intent not aligned to approved concept design

  • ·      Softscape specifications/detailed drawings not comprehensive or not accurate vis a vis plants, ground covers, grassing, trees, planters, etc.

  • ·      Softscape layout, spacings, and quantities w. r. t. softscape elements are neither comprehensive nor accurate

  • ·       Methods for guying, watering, handling, pest control, transplanting, equipment, fungicides control and method for developing Golf course not insufficient details vis-à-vis each type of Plants, Ground covers, Grassing, Trees, etc.

  • ·      Assigning the same landscape designer to develop specifications & drawings in this stage who developed concept designs in earlier design stages thus not implementing the segregation of duties concept*

  • ·      Compromising specifications for the development of samples in collusion with vendor/contractor




Stage 3 Activities that can adversely impact business


  • ·      In the tender, the landscape designer/architect includes names and brands of specific materials only for pre-identified /preferred vendors of the landscape architect in return for commission/kickback from such vendors.

  • ·      Landscape designer/Architect recommending only a single source for many plants, ground covers, grassing, trees, planters, and plants for interior areas and thus leaving very few options with the Project materials team to negotiate prices aggressively in return for commission /kickback from such vendors.

  • ·      Tender drawings not incorporating applicable Quality-standards or specifications for all works.

  • ·      Inspection requirements w.r.t.  each BOQ material is not comprehensive.



Stage 4 Activities that can adversely impact business



Computing Softscape costs are based on thumb rules rather than on a first principal basis, such as below, leading to underestimating or overestimating project costs.

  • ·      Estimating costs related to directly bought out BOQ inputs (such as plants, ground covers, grassing, trees, planters, and plants for interior areas) by the project team and issued to the contractor, labor component, construction, installation, etc. for all types of Softscape

  • ·      Estimating costs related to BOQ inputs in the scope of the Contractor including labor component, construction, installation, etc. for all types of Softscape

  • ·      Costs w.r.t. installation of plants, ground covers, grassing, trees, planters, and other landscape material is not considered  


Stage 5 Activities that can adversely impact business


·      Horticulture consultant/landscape designer architect issuing “As-built drawings” for Softscape drawings which are aligned to earlier approved drawings by the project head but at variant vis-à-vis actual completed physical construction (in terms of approved plants, ground covers, grassing, trees, planters, and plants for interior areas materials used and their layouts/quantities, etc.) 


You can read more about the 21 activities that can adversely impact business in Chapter 1 of my handbook ETHICS in the real estate and hospitality industry, Volume 1- Architectural, Interior design, and MEP services “




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