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Essential skills profile

This profile contains a list of example tasks that illustrate how each of the 9 essential skills is generally performed by most workers in this occupation. The levels of complexity estimated for each task are ranked between 1 (basic) and 5 (advanced).

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Landscape Architects(2152)

Landscape architects conceptualize landscape designs, develop contract documents and oversee the construction of landscape development for commercial projects, office complexes, parks, golf courses and residential development. They are employed by government environmental and development agencies, landscape consulting firms and by architectural and engineering firms, or they are self-employed.

Reading Help - Reading
  • Read catalogues and order forms from nurseries when selecting plant material for a site. (1)
  • Read e-mail, short letters and faxes from co-workers and colleagues. For example, they may read letters from members of land development teams to obtain information about ongoing projects, find out about meeting arrangements and to get answers to questions they have posed. They may also read letters and documents submitted by landscape technicians which outline their qualifications and detail previous work. (2)
  • Read 'requests for proposals' and proposals for residential, commercial and public landscaping development projects. It is important that they understand the work required and terms of reference so they can prepare complete and effective responses. (3)
  • Read articles in field guides and gardening references such as Garden Encyclopedia to learn about plants, shrubs and trees. When working with unfamiliar plants, they read to get information about sizes shapes, colours, growth rates, optimal growing conditions, water requirements and companion plantings. They may read trade publications such as the Canadian Landscaping Journal to learn about hardscape applications such as lighting, water pumps or park benches to determine which ones are suitable for their own projects, or to learn about unfamiliar topics such as soil drainage. (3)
  • Read a variety of municipal by-laws, regulations, and provincial and federal acts to ensure that clients' development permit applications are approved. They analyze municipal by-laws and land use covenants to understand restrictions that apply to particular sites, minimum legal requirements for development and elements that need to be included in drawings. For example, city by-laws may stipulate minimum amounts of green space or certain fence heights. (4)
  • Read reports and assessments written by project consultants and professionals. For example, they read technical reports on drainage and storm run-off patterns written by engineers and survey reports written by land surveyors. They read them to understand the topography, elevations and water courses that will affect their landscape design. (4)
Document use Help - Document use
  • Get specific information such as common and botanical names, growing instructions, light and watering requirements, and size at maturity from a variety of labels attached to trees and plants. They also get concentrations, hazard warnings and mixing instructions from the labels of fertilizers and pesticides. (1)
  • Read park interpretative signs and construction site signs to get information such as warnings, place names and directions. (1)
  • Obtain information from graphs of tree heights to ensure selection of appropriate species for the site. (2)
  • Complete a variety of forms such as invoices, construction completion forms, land development forms, supply order forms, government applications, continuing education logs and vacation requests. (2)
  • Find information in tables. For example, they scan annual rainfall tables to determine annual and monthly amounts so they can design effective drainage for landscaped sites. (2)
  • Interpret a variety of maps such as hardiness zone maps, road maps, drainage maps and topographic maps to select and position plant material and architectural features. (2)
  • Plot information on graphs; for example, to illustrate the amount of allotted green space or to decide if a plan is suited to a site. (3)
  • Read assembly drawings for landscape installations such as playground equipment and base preparation for bricked areas. (3)
  • Study scale drawings to become familiar with the physical makeup of sites. For example, they may examine drawings of new subdivisions to locate utilities, roads, school sites and environmental reserves. Landscape architects locate and analyze the features that will need to be incorporated into landscape designs. (4)
Writing Help - Writing
  • Write notes in field books and on notepads to record the details of site visits, meetings and conversations. For example, they write summaries of topics discussed and agreements reached at team and client meetings. (2)
  • Write short faxes and e-mail to colleagues, contractors and government officials to inform, request information or respond to questions. For example, they may write e-mail to colleagues to organize starting dates of projects and coordinate work activities. (2)
  • Write letters to contractors inviting them to bid on upcoming contracts, city officials asking permission to develop parcels of land and clients informing them of progress of their projects. (3)
  • Write promotional material for clients. For example, they may highlight new parks' features in articles for recreation department newsletters or city newspapers' active living sections. They may also write text for interpretive park signs, visitors' guides or promotional brochures. Because writing needs to appeal to various audiences and user groups, they use a style that is both interesting and scientifically accurate. (3)
  • Write technical instructions and specifications in contracts and 'requests for proposal'. For example, they may write instructions for laying asphalt which detail surface preparation, asphalt composition, application temperatures and compaction standards. (3)
  • Write environmental assessment reports and planning background documents. For example, a landscape architect may write a short report to summarize existing conditions on a trail system and recommend various options for dealing with critical environmental and social issues along the route. The landscape architect may describe a variety of physical features, discuss data and present recommendations supported by logical arguments. (4)
  • Write contracts for the development of large landscaping projects. They detail the clients' requirements, scope of services to be provided, terms in the agreement, additional services, overall costs, financial requirements and special conditions. (4)
Numeracy Help - Numeracy Money Math
  • Purchase supplies and plant materials using credit cards and cash. (1)
  • Prepare, check and approve invoices. They calculate labour costs for different workers at various hourly rates. They add costs for materials and contractors and calculate applicable provincial and federal taxes. (3)
Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math
  • Compare prices at several suppliers to determine best value. They may need to calculate unit costs in order to compare different packaging types and container sizes. Price comparisons are complicated by variations in costs for shipping, assembly and extended warranties, as well as the need to compare equivalent products with different application rates. (3)
  • Plan, budget, schedule and monitor long-range landscape development projects. They calculate labour and material costs for the different phases by incorporating estimates from independent consultants and contractors, and monitor actual expenses to avoid cost overruns. They also may schedule seasonal work, planting phases and rotations for fifty-year city park development plans. They may need to make budget and schedule changes to accommodate delays, design changes and additional expenses. (4)
Measurement and Calculation Math
  • May measure landscape development sites using inclinometers and transits. (3)
  • Calculate areas of irregularly shaped objects such as flowerbeds. (3
  • Perform hydraulic calculations. For example, they calculate run-off amounts to determine the type of ground cover to install. (4)
  • Calculate angles and distances in landscape designs. For example, a landscape architect may use trigonometry to calculate the slope of a pedestrian walkway between an office building and parking area or the length of a ramp needed to make a viewpoint wheelchair accessible. (4)
Data Analysis Math
  • Calculate and compare average costs. For example, when planning a new design they may calculate the average cost of several previous playground projects and compare differences and similarities among the projects. (2)
  • May analyze statistics from surveys and questionnaires. For example, they may use survey data to draw conclusions about patterns of support or opposition for outdoor recreation facilities. This information is then used to make revisions to the initial proposal to ensure optimal use by all age groups. (3)
Numerical Estimation
  • Make numerous small estimates when conducting preliminary site visits. For example, they may estimate the amount of soil required to build a mound to enhance the beauty of a landscape, the number of square meters of sod necessary to plant grass on an area of land or the amount of stone required for a retaining wall. (2)
  • Estimate timelines for large projects based on past experience with similar projects. They adjust previous project experience to take into account the complexity of the site, the nature and amount of plant material, built structures, the availability of labour and the time of year. (3)
Oral communication Help - Oral communication
  • Interact with managers, clients and colleagues to discuss project details and receive direction. (2)
  • Talk to suppliers to obtain product information and price quotes. For example, a landscape architect may ask a plant supplier about special species such as non-poisonous plants for use in children's play areas. (2)
  • Interact with project team members such as contractors, junior landscape architects and drafts people. They assign and coordinate new tasks, discuss project goals, give directions, explain procedures and enquire about the status of ongoing work. For example, they may clearly and thoroughly explain design specifications and standards for landscape construction work to contractors. (2)
  • Talk to colleagues and peers to obtain information and advice about on-going work. For example, they seek the advice of experts in specialized areas of design or construction such as lighting consultants, irrigation specialists and engineers. (3)
  • Talk with clients to provide them with information, discuss design goals and objectives, get direction, provide feedback and update plans. For example, they meet with clients during project construction phases to provide them with updates, notify them of any problems encountered by contractors and to discuss potential design changes. (3)
  • Lead project planning meetings. Landscape architects meet and confer with engineers, irrigation and construction contractors and architects to brainstorm ideas, gather site information and coordinate work. They need to be diplomatic and persuasive because effective communication is very important during the planning stages of projects. (3)
  • Make formal presentations to the public, clients and colleagues to influence their thinking. For example, they may present proposed landscape designs to their clients' boards of directors. They must be clear, speak to the technical level of their audiences and address relevant and sometimes controversial issues. They also need to be able to defend critical aspects of their designs to individuals who may be in opposition or who want to eliminate as much cost as possible. If they fail to communicate effectively, key elements of proposed designs could be rejected and funding denied. (4)
Thinking Help - Thinking Problem Solving
  • Face equipment failures and breakdowns. For example, a landscape architect is notified there is a mechanical system failure in the pumping station of an artificial water attraction. The landscape architect determines the cause of the equipment failure and calls the appropriate suppliers to fix it. (1)
  • Discover that contractors have not completed work as specified. For example, during an inspection a landscape architect may notice that a water tank has been installed at the wrong depth or that a lighting system has been installed too low for the finished elevation of a pathway. The landscape architect meets with the contractor to discuss possible solutions and finds the most economical way to bring the work to specification or adjust other construction work to incorporate the mistake. (2)
  • Discover inaccuracies in drawings. For example, a landscape architect may discover that a scale drawing indicates a flat site when its elevation actually varies by a metre. The landscape architect verifies measurements, makes adjustments to the design plans and informs the construction contractor of the changes. (2)
  • May find that supplies and materials have not arrived on time. Because time is of the essence, landscape architects immediately contact the suppliers to determine causes of delays. They may need to make adjustments to project schedules or decide to choose different materials or suppliers if time is limited. (2)
  • Realize during the construction phase that original ideas, plans and designs will not work or are not applicable. For example, they determine that a design for a shoreline stabilization mechanism using anchored logs will not work on the site. Landscape architects consult colleagues and co-workers to come up with alternative structures, present them to the client and incorporate feedback to identify a final option that will work well. (3)
  • May perform work for clients who refuse to pay for services. They make all attempts to reach the clients by mail and telephone to discuss the issue, advise them of any late charges and to make arrangements for payment in full. If payments are not received, they may consider legal action to recoup funds. (3)
Decision Making
  • Select landscape and construction contractors. They decide which contractors to use for particular aspects of landscape design and construction. They consider contractors' quotes, previous work and reputations. (2)
  • Make decisions about the design and construction of landscapes for specific locations and purposes. They may decide which type of lighting to use for park pathways, fencing to use for walkways, species of trees and plants that are suitable for building entrances, or equipment to use in playgrounds. They consider aesthetics, functions, costs, clients' preferences, standards mandated by municipalities and constraints of related architectural and engineering plans. (3)
  • May decide whether or not to bid on multi-phased, long-term projects. For example, self-employed landscape architects review 'requests for proposal' to evaluate technical components of projects to determine if they have the skills, expertise and time required to carry out the work. (3)
Critical Thinking
  • Evaluate the acceptability of proposals submitted by contractors. They may use evaluation forms to assign points for each proposal's cost, quality and feasibility. They also consider contractors' experience and reputations to select the best overall proposal. (2)
  • Judge the quality of work performed by contractors. As part of the assessment, they determine the extent to which the contractors have met the specifications and standards stipulated in drawings and agreements. (2)
  • Evaluate the suitability of various hardscape materials when designing projects. For example, they assess various construction materials for walls, fences, paths and any other permanent features. They must consider the function, durability and costs of products. (3)
  • Evaluate the suitability of different landscape designs. For example, landscape architects evaluate various ways to design trail systems. They weigh numerous factors including own design preferences, budget constraints, assessments from contractors such as surveyors and engineers, consultations with affected communities and clients' visions. (3)
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of proposed designs. For example, landscape architects may assess the extent to which proposed residential development layouts address environmental protection and safety concerns. They consider the environmental constraints presented by wetlands, streams and slopes. They weigh conflicting values such as residents' desire to conserve sensitive ecosystems and the need to clear vegetation around home sites for wildfire protection. (4)
Job Task Planning and Organizing

Own Job Planning and Organizing

The scope of work and the priorities of landscape architects are largely determined by the context and sizes of the organizations for which they work and the goals of landscape development projects. Within this framework, landscape architects work independently to plan, design and manage projects. When working on multi-phased, long-term land development projects, their work is team-oriented and job tasks must be integrated with those of contractors, engineers, other landscape architects, and technicians. The ability to work on multiple projects, determine work priorities and meet clients' deadlines is critical to their jobs. Equipment breakdowns, changes in weather, construction problems or lack of funding can affect their work causing them to change priorities and schedules. (4)

Planning and Organizing for Others

Landscape architects may plan and schedule the work of junior staff, other staff members and contractors. Those who own their own businesses are responsible for operational and strategic planning, determining the pace and style of daily procedures and the types of projects to pursue. (4)

Significant Use of Memory
  • Remember the botanical and common names of frequently-used plants.
  • Remember city codes and provincial and federal act and regulations which govern their work.
  • Remember common construction and planting standards such as the maximum distance between landings in a ramp and the spacing between trees on a boulevard.
  • Remember the names and phone numbers of suppliers and contractors.
Finding Information
  • Find by-laws, acts and regulations on government websites and in government publications. (1)
  • Find suppliers of specialized products in technical magazines and professional newsletters, and on the Internet. (2)
  • Conduct botanical and historical research by reading books, consulting biologists and archaeologists to find unusual species or design appropriately for a historic site. (3)
Digital technology Help - Digital technology
  • Use database software. For example, they enter costs, create reports and monitor status of budgets and construction progress. They review costs in various categories or may track forms through the municipal approval process. (2)
  • Use communications software. For example, they use e-mail to send and receive messages with attachments. (2)
  • Use the Internet. For example, they research suppliers' websites or use search engines such as Google, Dogpile and AltaVista to conduct multiple searches, bookmark commonly used sites and create topic-specific folders when working on projects. (2)
  • Use other computer and software applications. For example, they may use scanners to digitize documents, digital cameras to take photographs and CD burners to create copies of electronic documents for presentations. (2)
  • Use word processing. For example, they use programs such as Word and Word Perfect to create memos, letters and reports. They use a wide range of formatting functions, create tables to organize information and import graphics and pictures from other applications. (3)
  • Use spreadsheets. For example, they use software such as Excel or Quattro Pro to create tables and enter, edit and manage information. They input formulas to perform calculation, track costs and analyze data for multiple projects. (3)
  • Use graphics software. For example, they use PowerPoint to create effective presentations for clients. They import resize images from digital cameras, scanned files or the Internet using photo-editing software such as Photoshop. They may also use graphics software such as Draw or Illustrator to design and lay out material for printing. (4)
  • Use computer-assisted design, manufacturing and machining. For example, they use drafting software such as AutoCAD to create scale drawings of landscape designs and multiple software functions to graphically illustrate all aspects of the design including layout, number of plants, topsoil and seeding requirements, pathways and slopes. (4)
Additional information Help - Additional information Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Depending upon the work context, landscape architects may work independently or as members of land development teams. Landscape architects involved in master planning coordinate and integrate job tasks with teams composed of other professionals and tradespeople. Teamwork is critical on large construction projects where landscape architects work with engineering staff, architects and construction contractors to ensure that project specifications and deadlines are kept. Those who work on smaller projects involving site planning may work independently to conduct site analyses, meet clients, develop proposals, recommendations and detailed plans. (3)

Continuous Learning

Continuous learning is a priority for landscape architects. They learn through daily work activities, from colleagues and co-workers and self-directed study. They read trade publications, and industry specific Internet sites. They may also participate in conferences and networking opportunities offered though provincial and national associations, and take short courses to learn about new computer applications such as AutoCAD. Some provinces require compulsory upgrading for registered members to maintain their certification by earning continuous learning credits though self study, work experience, workshops and volunteer community participation. They must remain current about changing standards and regulations such as those that apply to the safety of playground equipment. (3)

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