Lessons from a Landscape Architect: To Substitute or not to Substitute

TASA ID: 334

Some rules still exist on the books of municipalities governing the selection of plant materials for new and redeveloped site projects.  Lists of genus and species authorized for installation attempt to reflect the desired site conditions, safety considerations and of course aesthetic demands.  These lists do not always factor in the complementary role of plants in defining spaces and enhancing the design attributes of an architectural statement.

In the process of creating design development drawings, bid documents and construction specifications, a landscape architect is often approached by the installing contractor regarding substitution of plants in variance from the original designed plant list.

Here are some cautions regarding said substitutions:

  • Ensure that plants offered are not selected to reflect materials that are “in the back 40” as opposed to those requiring research
  • Make certain revisions offered do not represent future line-of-sight problems, spatial conflicts or hazardous conditions (view blocking, seeds/pods, heavy leaf drop, thorns, and toxics)
  • Ensure environmental compatibility, e.g., zeriscape native plants and ecological friendliness

Lesson Learned?

  • Unlike brick and mortar, land-safe sites represent dynamic conditions.  Do not forget:
  • Growth rates
  • Root systems
  • Shad & shadow
  • Toxins
  • Seeds & debris

This article discusses issues of general interest and does not give any specific legal or business advice pertaining to any specific circumstances.  Before acting upon any of its information, you should obtain appropriate advice from a lawyer or other qualified professional.

This article may not be duplicated, altered, distributed, saved, incorporated into another document or website, or otherwise modified without the permission of TASA.

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