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No Landscape Architect would deny the importance of a well designed irrigation system to the overall success of a project. However, irrigation is rarely given the attention it rightfully deserves. Oftentimes, senior members of the firm might push the duty of irrigation design on the rookie who just got hired on.

Landscape Architectural firms have many options available to ensure that the irrigation for a project is designed by an expert. The first, and most commonly used option, is to subcontract the work out to an irrigation consultant. The next option is to develop a separate department within the firm that specializes in irrigation design. According to LASN's Associate Irrigation Editor David Pagano, ASIC, one of the drawbacks to an in-house irrigation department is the increased liability. The third option involves specializing in irrigation design exclusively. Industry experts that fall into each of these three categories offer their own experiences as irrigation consultants and designers.

Jeff Bradshaw works as an in-house irrigation designer for Gates & Associates. He offers a unique perspective because he also worked as a consultant for eight years. Don Wihlborg is a Landscape Architects who offers irrigation consulting services as part of their business. Steve Hohl offers a different scenario because he was the in-house irrigation designer for Land Concern. Recently he started his own consulting company that can now provide services to additional clients. Whatever the situation in your firm might be, irrigation design is such a critical aspect of landscape projects that it shouldn't be given the just attention that it deserves.

Jeff Bradshaw

Gates and Associates

Jeff Bradshaw has over 13 years of experience in the irrigation industry. He began his career as an estimator with Valley Crest Landscape. In 1988, he went to work for the irrigation consulting office, Brookwater Design, as a draftsman and worked his way up to an irrigation designer. He currently works with David Gates & Associates, Landscape Architects, as a senior associate in charge of all irrigation design.

The principals of Gates and Associates offered Bradshaw an in-house position as the irrigation designer to bring a certain level of consistency among their irrigation designs. The firm also wanted to provide their Landscape Architects with a more convenient method of getting irrigation design services and also to help cut consultant costs.

When he was with Brookwater Design, where he worked for approximately eight years, he typically worked on commercial and industrial irrigation projects but also worked on residential communities, parks and athletic fields, large recreational facilities and several major highway projects. At his current position as in-house irrigation designer at Gates and Associates he works on the same type of projects but he gets involved much earlier in the planning stages to help develop the most cost effective solutions for such things as water meter and service line sizes, electrical requirements and booster pump's. This early stage planning helps keep project budgets on track and leads to better overall coordination between trades.

As the in-house irrigation designer Bradshaw spends a large portion of his time in the field reviewing projects and in front of the computer designing the irrigation systems. As the only irrigation consultant on staff at Gates and Associates, whatever work Bradshaw cannot fit into his schedule gets subcontracted out to local irrigation design consultants. He estimates that he completes 75 percent of the work that is generated by the 25 staff members at the firm.


According to Bradshaw, pricing the projects takes some irrigation design experience. Normally, an irrigation consultant will be hired by a Landscape Architect to complete the irrigation design. A planting plan is provided for the irrigation designer to review and base their design fee's from accordingly.

The Owner of the project, the Civil Engineer, Architect or possibly a Public Agency, will hire the Landscape Architect. In Bradshaw's case, he reviews the schematic planting layouts and provides an estimate of the time it will require to design the irrigation system for that particular project. of the irrigation design on computers using the AutoCAD software that he modified to better suit his needs as a designer.

Steve Hohl

Water Concern, Ltd.

This is an area of an activity spine park at Ladera Ranch in Orange County, California designed by Water Concern, Ltd. The sample irrigation document shown represents a level of irrigation design geared for long term community water mangement.

The design takes into account the differing hydrozone parameters within the park. There is separation area with respect to slope, sun exposure, landscape coefficient and sprinkler type. As the valve areas are designed, they are colored to designate coverage by the valve. The area served by each valve is calculated and combined with the flow rate to determine more accurate precipitation rates per valve. The precipitation rates and areas are listed next to the valve number for easy reference.

After the project is installed, these construction documents can be printed in color, laminated and placed in the controller cabinet for easy reference controller charts. Most of the valve parameter information listed on the plan is used to program the central control computer for water management of the site. Total area is calculated to create water usage allocation budgets per meter.

Donald Wihlborg, RLA

Wihlborg Design.

Donald Wihlborg, RLA, first started working for Bob Woerner, ASLA, in 1968. It was in conjunction with this job that he worked on his first irrigation project for a small office building and learned about hydraulics and head design-key components to any well designed irrigation system.

During his college days at the University of Eugene, Oregon, Wihlborg worked as an irrigation designer for United Pipe and Supply in Eugene, Oregon. It was at this job that he learned about designing irrigation systems for projects of varying scales. When things weren't very busy, he would wander around the warehouse and fix broken sprinklers and valves. Through this experience, he learned about the common problems that plague irrigation equipment. It was this hands-on work that set the stage for his professional career as an irrigation consultant.

After graduating in 1974 with a degree in Landscape Architecture, he was hired on by a firm in Mill Valley, California. "I termed myself the fireman," he said. "Whenever a job needed to get out in a hurry, I got put on it."

Working under pressure helped prepare him for the debut of his own company, Wihlborg Design in 1982. Half of his work load is irrigation consulting for other landscape architecture firms. He explained that the Landscape Architects are usually past deadline when they give him the project. This means that he is under the gun to get the irrigation design done quickly so it keeps the whole process on schedule.

The other half of his work consists of landscape architecture. His primary clients are school districts, municipalities, and developers of shopping center and hotels.

As is the case with any Landscape Architecture firm, Wihlborg relies heavily on computers to draw his irrigation plans. He uses Microstation from Integraph/Bentley products as his primary drawing package. The other program is a landscape plug-in from Microstation that makes plant lists and plant identification very easy. For irrigation purposes, he uses the program specifically for head and equipment placement. One of the program's greatest features, according to Wihlborg is the ability to place sprinkler heads along an edge.

A word of advice when it comes to potential liability for irrigation work. "You had better know what you are doing if you get involved in big projects," Wihlborg explained. "If you screw that up then it can get very expensive." In the 30 plus years that he has worked in the irrigation industry, Wihlborg said that he has never once been sued. "If you know what you are doing, then you probably won't get sued," he said. "If you are worried about it, then you had better hire someone else to do the project." LASN hello

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October 23, 2019, 9:59 pm PDT

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