The first step is to clearly define the project’s needs and scope of services. If the client does not have the expertise and understanding to fulfill the obligations of the irrigation portion of the project, the services of a consultant are necessary.

A client should consider the project type, size and complexity, and seek a consultant with a history of providing similar work, while meeting both the project timetable and budget. During the interview, there should be enough rapport that the client feels confident about working closely with the consultant over the coming months. The client should also inquire about the consultant’s insurance and staffing resources. Checking references and asking for referrals is always important.

A consultant is likely also evaluating the client to ascertain whether there is a sense of mutual respect and open communication. A wise consultant may also seek a solid reference from fellow professionals who have previously worked with the client. A strong and trusting relationship between the client and consultant cannot be underestimated.

Integrating the Consultant Into the Project

Once a consultant is hired, deciding when to bring a consultant into the project is an important factor. In a nutshell — as early as possible. Even if there seems to be little required activity for the consultant, early intervention can make a big difference in the success of the project. The consultant may want to start communication with the regulating authorities and project engineers to determine water source options, requirements and location. Realistic preliminary budgets can be established early in the planning phase; this is too often left to guesswork leading to some ugly surprises later. A consultant is also instrumental in providing required documentation to obtain permits or zoning approvals. Becoming an integral member of the team early on helps in building future relationship trust.

It is necessary to discuss and mutually understand the project requirements. This includes project use, size and any site constraints or unique issues. There should be a frank discussion regarding level of quality expected — both in the product as

well as services provided by the consultant. A preliminary project schedule and budget should be presented and agreed upon. The consultant should have a list of all key team players, including other outside consulting firms.

It is important to define the scope of services needs. Depending on the in-house expertise of the client, the scope of services needs to be customized for each project. A clear understanding of each service and who will be responsible is a critical step to ensure the project moves forward without unnecessary misunderstanding. Additional services may be required once the project is under way, and services may be added to an agreement at any time. Too often in our industry, providing technically correct plans and specifications is thought to equate to providing the services of a professional consultant. But the role is really so much more complex.

Once the project scope of services has been defined, the irrigation consultant prepares a compensation proposal. Compensation may be lump sum, percent of construction cost, hourly fee or a combination of all three. Finally, a written agreement can be forged based on the agreed-upon project scope, services, responsibilities, project schedule and budgets. By following these practices, the client and professional consultant can work together to finish a landscape project that both meets the expectations of the client while focusing on responsible and efficient irrigation practices.

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Common Services That Can Be Provided by an Irrigation Consultant

Evaluation and Planning

• Discipline coordination as it relates to irrigation (electrical, mechanical, civil, hardscape/softscape, etc.)

• Agency consulting for required permit documentation

• Preliminary budget analysis/ preliminary cost estimates

• Water sourcing options/economic feasibility studies

• Zoning/permitting process assistance

• Planning meeting(s) participation and/or attendance

Design Services

• Design/documentation (conceptual through bidding) • Specifications • Budget estimate update including cost-benefit analysis

Bidding or Negotiating

• Bidding materials/documentation • Respond to bidder’s inquiries • Addenda as needed • Bidding/negotiating with contractor • Analysis of alternates/substitutions • Bid evaluation and recommendation

Contract Administration Services

• On-site visits during construction • Inspection administration (observa- tion and reports) • Change orders • Contract cost accounting • Interpretations and decisions • Project close-out

Facility Administration Services

• Maintenance protocol • System programming • Record drawings • Warranty review/disputes

Carol Colein is executive director of the

American Society of Irrigation Consultants. Prior to her current role, Carol worked as a

professional irrigation consultant for over 28 years. 23

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