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  • Writer's pictureMatt Daly

Water and Earth in Richmond, VA: Design/Build or Design-Only?

When you’re deciding who you want to do your backyard, you have two choices here in Richmond, VA. You can engage with a Richmond-based design/build company, or seek out the services of a design only company.

The question: Water and Earth design/build, or design only?

The answer: Just design- And so much more.

First, some backstory. To understand how Water and Earth differs from a design/build company operating in Richmond, you need to understand how design/build companies work.

Richmond, VA has their own distinct market of landscape/build companies, and there’s no shortage of companies to choose from. Here is how the process with one of those companies will likely go:

Imagine that, after doing extensive research and comparing your options, you reach out to three separate design/build companies: A, B, and company C.

Each company has comparable qualifications, a notable online footprint, and a convincing portfolio of work. You meet with each, and receive three separate quotes. Each quote is between zero and a few thousands dollars to create a design for your new outdoor living space. Everything seems great, you think.

But what company A, B, and C will not tell you is that the quote they have just presented you is a direct reflection of what they think you can afford or are willing to spend on the project. This initial dance is done to see whether or not you can afford their construction and installation service, because for a design/build company, that’s where the money is.

Each design you receive may be slightly different, but every company has one thing in common: their only goal is to take you off the market completely.

Design/build firms know that a lack of financial investment is synonymous with an absence of emotional investment. They’re aware that you are not likely to know other options exist. They’re banking on the fact that you’re unlikely to consider paying multiple companies to create your vision, and they want that exclusivity.

Maybe this single-exclusive company approach sounds logical. And maybe, like many people, you’ve assumed that this is the way business has to be. But that just isn’t true. The nature of design/build companies provide largely impersonal experiences.

Unlike Water and Earth, most design/build companies aren’t ready to take risks. Most won’t advocate for you, and many won’t go the extra mile to make sure the space you end up with is the one you’ve been dreaming about.

Design/Build Companies are Doomed to Play it Safe

Now, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. It would be dishonest to paint every single Richmond, VA design/build company with the same brush stroke. Many of these companies do have great ideas. But all of them are part of the same reality: they will only design what they believe that you will buy.

They are driven by speed, and their bottom line. They design fast in order to sign you fast. It’s all about securing your payment and etching your name into their calendar. And too often, this “speed over everything” approach results in some stale, impersonal designs.

When speed matters over everything, and a bottom line takes priority over ingenuity, recycled ideas are inevitable. Design/build companies have carefully calculated what designs are most profitable, and where and to whom they will sell. Newer, interesting ideas get pushed to the side. A risky design doesn’t fit in their streamlined process.

At the end of the day, innovation becomes a threat to time and money. The result? An impersonal, thoughtless design that has been done to death time and time again with another client in their packed schedule.

We're proud to say that Water and Earth Landscape Design offers an alternative to this experience. We are a design-only company. This means a lot of things, but it mostly means that we have freedom.

We have the freedom to take risks, the ability to collaborate with other designers, and the opportunity and drive to present designs that are unique, interesting, and specific to our client's individual vision for their space.

Design Collaboration

It’s unlikely that the typical design/build company will ever reach out to other competitors or designers here in Richmond. These companies have an established staff, and they produce all of their work internally. Water and Earth is different.

We are a design only company, and one of the biggest benefits to this is our freedom to collaborate with other designers. Water and Earth wants to present the best, most innovative designs in the industry. To be frank, we love making cool stuff. Limiting our resources to just a handful of people just doesn’t make sense to us.

As a design only company, we connect with a huge network of designers, in Richmond and all over the country. It is firmly our outlook that direct competition is not direct competition when it comes to great ideas.

We Communicate With Competition

Design/build companies want exclusivity. But Water and Earth has a direct, vibrant line of communication with our competition. No one set of contractors has our commitment. We aren’t limited by a desire to please one company or group of people.

Even here, in the Richmond landscaping community, we’re not concerned about ruffling some feathers. Our focus is to discover the best people, doing the highest quality work, and advocate for our clients and their ideas without reservations.

We Use Premium Software

Of course, most design/build companies have 3D rendering software, and can give you a good idea of what the final space will look like. However, they’re often limited in what software they are willing to invest in. Why spend money on buying the best of what’s out there if “good enough” will make them more money in the end. Again, this is not where we stand at Water and Earth.

The same way we are able to freely invest and collaborate with our competition, we are also invested in offering the best software and programs. Water and Earth never wants to feel limited. As a design only company, we’re not worried about how premium software will impact our bottom line.

Bringing ideas to life is the spark that makes our company tick. To do this, we need the best design programs, the best modeling software, and top of the line rendering. All of this ensures we give our clients the best possible product.

Competitive Pricing

Design/build companies are resigned to work in a rigid structure. They rely on one set of people, one pool of resources, and the same contractors for every project. At Water and Earth, we can reach out to whoever we think is the best fit for the job.

We have no tight, limited budget in place to inflate our bottom line. We have unlimited access to an incredible network of contractors whose shared goal is to make your dream space a reality. We are driven by the passion building new, inspired, truly great spaces, and we can price between multiple companies to achieve incredible finished products, getting you the best deal possible.

Water and Earth does what design/build companies can’t.

In the end, design/build companies may seem like a great choice. But in truth, they will only offer you what they believe that you’ll buy, on a limited schedule, with a laser focus on their bottom line.

Operating as a design only company, Water and Earth manages to outperform other Richmond landscape and hardscaping companies, by creating the most innovative designs for competitive prices, all with an unwavering focus on the unique needs of each of our clients.

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