Responsible landscape lighting designers

Responsible landscape lighting designers

By Mike Gambino

Throughout my more than 2o year career of designing and installing landscape lighting systems mostly in Los Angeles and other parts of the country where I have been fortunate enough to have installed projects. I have always felt that my number 1 responsibility to the client has been to specify fixtures and products that are not only appropriate for the property but will stand the test of time and be as low maintenance as possible.

This mentality or philosophy whatever you want to call it has always served me very well. I have clients that I still service their originally installed fixtures going on 20 plus years which is pretty much unprecedented in this industry. It has not only benefitted the client but also me as well because I have re-occurring business and ongoing income from the clients. These clients continue to refer work to me because they are happy. Successful business is all about building relationships and not many relationships will be built when products specified by the designer fail and need to be replaced after a short period of time. To me it is an ethical violation to agree to install products or implement  ideas that based upon past experience will not work. After all I feel one of the most important values an experienced designer brings to the table is their ability to properly guide a client to a successful end result for their project.

I have mentioned before on this blog that I am always keeping a close eye on industry message forums. There is a current thread on one where a new installer is asking others for recommendations on paver lights. I have never nor ever will install this type of fixture. In fact I’d walk from a project if it was insisted upon that I procure this type of fixture and install it on one of my projects. The reason is because not only is the effect glaring and “cheesy” the products are cheaply made and problematic.

Here is an excerpt of the newbie being schooled by some more experienced professionals (not me) and I think there are a lot of important take always for both property owner and designer here.

Newbie-Anyone use or have experience with paver lights?
I don’t particulary like them but client is adament on using them…..

Experienced designers-I did a retrofit project that had xxx in the driveway last winter. Broken caps from the weight of vehicles and moisture intrusion issues resulted in corroded sockets. Therefore, it is not a quality product that I would install.
In my opinion, I’m not comfortable with installing fixtures in a driveway. Vehicle traffic, snowplows, pressure washers, and oils make a driveway a difficult place to install trustworthy fixtures.

Newbie-The paver stones will sit on top of a concrete base. there will be approx. 22, and would rather not have to core out, that would increase labor and already borderline with clients budget. I am hoping for something like the pre-formed rectangle that i can leave for the masonry crew and show them where they need to go and have them lay them in while they lay in paver stones.
Client is using xxxx and awaiting him to tell me which model.

Experienced designers-There are a lot of different paver style lights on the market. I would never install any of them myself. Forget about the horrible effect they produce (alien landing strip effect) and just look at the fixture build quality. None of them are designed to stand the test of time. They break, crack, seals fail, sockets and connections fail, lenses yellow, etc.

I would be guiding the client away from this completely. If there is no budget to do the job well / right, then there is no point in doing it poorly. Do you really want your name associated with a poor performing and visually distracting job?

Short term pain for long term pain… its a lose lose proposition.

Newbie-Yes i know all this, and tried to sway potential client.
This is what he wants. I have bills to pay. End of story.
As for putting my name to it, I will do the best possible job I can do, as usual. I will not guarantee the paver lights for more than 1 year, where my other usual fixtures will be warranted much longer. In the end client will be happy he has what he wants. He will recommend me. I at least talked him out of as many lights he originally wanted, and will stagger the lights both sides of walkways. Around a patio the lights will be spaced at least 10′. He wanted same lights on steps that has 5 landings and also on front door steps, I talked him out of that and steps will get my usual hardscape/step lights. Also talked him into highlighting his address plaque and 2 trees to give some distraction away from paver lights.
All in all even though I dont like paver lights I think it will look good and client will be happy. I am not going to be a prima-donna and say “if you dont do it my way i’m not doing it”
It’s his money and as long as I give him a quality installation he will be happy.

Experienced designer-I understand your position completely. I was just offering my advice gained over 14 years in this biz. Just remember, the client may be happy initially, but when those things start to fail (and they will) he will probably include you when he tells others; “Oh that low voltage lighting stuff is all crap! I spent a ton of money on mine and it all failed. I wish I never hired that guy either cause he says the only way to fix it is re-install more of the same.” It is amazing how quickly dis-satisfied clients will forget that you told them so, and associate you with their lack of satisfaction.

There are times, and jobs, when it is better to simply say that we advise against this type of installation and we do not do this type of work and move along. It has nothing to do with being a prima donna and everything to do with working with integrity and being professional.

best of luck.

I love this thread because it is filled with so many lessons.

I think this is one of the main reasons that there are so many low quality and failed landscape lighting systems out there.

From the standpoint of a Property owner

Run don’t walk away from any designer who doesn’t challenge your ideas based upon his past experience or offer any advice even if its contrary regarding your wants and needs and is afraid to do so because he may lose a project over it or appear a Prima Donna. In other words yes men may be great for your ego but they will not always be working in your best interests.

From the standpoint of a designer

This paragraph really capsulizes it in a nut shell.

There are times, and jobs, when it is better to simply say that we advise against this type of installation and we do not do this type of work and move along. It has nothing to do with being a prima donna and everything to do with working with integrity and being professional.
If more designers took this approach I think the world of landscape lighting would be a much better place.

This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 20 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .

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