What Can A Landscape Architect Help Me With?
Here's why you should consider hiring a landscape architect for your next project.

What Can a Landscape Architect Help Me With?

You know the feeling you experience when visiting your favorite park or walking trail? Maybe it’s a sense of peacefulness, or connectedness with nature. Now, try to recall the feeling you get when stepping foot on a college campus. How about an outdoor shopping mall? 

Each of these should evoke a different emotion. Whether it’s a sensation of calmness, excitement, motivation, meditation or a complex combination of other feelings… each space was intentionally designed by a Landscape Architect or Landscape Designer with that specific feeling in mind. 

As with architects and designers, there are many differences between landscape architects and landscape designers. If you are taking on a big outdoor project, understanding the differences will ensure you hire the best professional for the job.

Landscape architecture can be found all around you. Look to the parks, trails, shopping centers, and street-scapes.

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Landscape Architects

Landscape architects typically work on large-scale projects that are part of the greater community. Think campuses, parks, trails, streetscapes, master-planned residential neighborhoods; but will occasionally work on smaller-scale residential projects, too. 

To use the title “landscape architect”, the individual must have earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the field, most often from a school accredited by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). They also must be licensed by each state they perform work in. 

Through this education, landscape architects are taught an appreciation of cultural resources and historic landscapes. They are experts in the restoration of places that have already been disturbed by human activity (such as deforestation and mining), as well as preserving and protecting cultural and historic sites.

A landscape architect is not only trained in aesthetic design but is also knowledgeable of challenging environmental issues that can arise, such as:

  • Steep slopes and elevation issues
  • Water retention, irrigation, and drainage
  • Energy and natural resource conservation

Because landscape architects look at landscapes as a system, they incorporate potential environmental threats into their design. Drought, flooding, and natural disasters are carefully planned for to create the most sustainable outdoor space possible.

Landscape architecture rendering by Trio Design Inc showcasing Palace Gaming, owned by the Tachi Yokut Nation.

(This image is a rendering of our Palace Gaming design for the Tachii Yokut Nation)

Landscape Designers 

As with residential designers, the term “landscape designer” is not nationally regulated. A landscape designer may be self-taught or may have the same level of training as a landscape architect (without being officially licensed). 

Aside from the variance in training, the main difference between landscape designers and landscape architects is that landscape designers typically work on small-scale residential projects like lawns, gardens, and patios. Most landscape designers work with “softscape” – our industry-specific term for plants. Through the use of trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses, landscape designers create colorful and aesthetic gardens, lawns, backyards, and patios.

For some projects, landscape architects and designers may work together as a team – the architect designs the overall layout and “feel” of the space, accounting for the nitty-gritty details like irrigation systems, and a landscape designer may be contracted to come back monthly or quarterly to replace plants, manicure the lawn, and maintain the environment.

Landscape designers focus on small residential projects.

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Have a large outdoor project coming up? 

Our team of landscape architects can help design an environment that evokes a memorable feeling amongst visitors, and one that is unique to your space. With landscape architecture, the possibilities truly are endless. Contact us to get started.

Green Buildings: Valuable to the Environment and Your Energy Bill
Green buildings are about more than solar panels and rooftop gardens.

Have you noticed buildings with solar panels and rooftop gardens popping up in your neighborhood?

“Green” buildings have been increasing in popularity – and for a good reason! According to the Environmental Protection Agency, homes, offices, and other buildings account for about 39 percent of all energy used in the US. Thoughtful design by architects could significantly reduce the environmental impact of these buildings, while also lowering individual energy costs. 

Going green is a win-win, and there are even certifications available to buildings that meet specific criteria. In this blog, we will answer some of the most common questions about green buildings… but as always, please reach out to us if you have further questions. We would love to help you!

Green building with solar panels and rooftop gardens.

Green buildings are valuable to the environment, and they help reduce energy costs as well. (Image courtesy of Unsplash)

Does my building need to have a LEED certification to be considered green?

No. A certification is a fantastic achievement, and can absolutely be the goal of the design if desired. However, even without a LEED or other environmental certification, your building can incorporate features that reduce energy and lessen its impact on the surrounding environment.

So, what makes a building green?

The World Green Building Council (WGBC) defines green buildings as ones that “in design, construction, or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and can create positive impacts on our climate and natural environment.”

A pretty broad definition, right? The purpose of the building doesn’t matter. Whether it’s a restaurant, office, grocery store, residential home, or another type of structure, it can be a green building! The thing to remember is, while any building can be a green building, not all of them will (or should) have the same features. Each building needs to be built with its surrounding environment in mind.  Constructing site-specific buildings and homes saves you money in the long term because you can maximize the existing site elements like wind, sun, shade, and trees to reduce the energy use over the life of the building. 

Xeriscaping is a perfect example of this in Green Landscape Architecture. A xeriscaped landscape incorporates plants that can tolerate very little water or even drought. It makes sense to do this in Arizona, Nevada, or here in Utah, where we have a desert climate. In some of the other states where we are licensed that get more rain (like Washington or Florida), it wouldn’t make sense at all. The plants would ultimately get too much water and die, costing the business or homeowner more time and money replacing the plants in the long run. Xeriscaping there wouldn’t benefit the local environment, but using native plants and trees that are used to the area’s rainfall would.

Xeriscaping helps reduce water waste, especially in desert climates.

The owners of this luxury desert home chose to xeriscape their landscaping.
(Image courtesy of Unsplash)

Do I have to use solar panels?

Green building is about more than apparent exterior features like the solar panels and rooftop gardens we mentioned earlier. While these are great options if they make sense for your project, there are many other, more subtle elements that can be incorporated. In fact, most “green” fixtures and features may even go unnoticed in a completed building.

Here are a few examples of green choices you can make in the design of your building:


Selecting Green Materials

Choosing locally-sourced, non-toxic materials is beneficial to the local economy and the health of anyone who will occupy the building in the future. 

Efficient use of water, gas, and electricity

Years ago, there wasn’t much a home or business owner could do to reduce the usage of natural resources, other than living or working in the dark. Now, there are a variety of energy-efficient water valves, appliances, light fixtures, and many more items available!

Building Orientation and Passive Solar Design

Keeping the sun’s angles in mind allows us to maximize warmth in winter and protect from the heat in summer. This is done through site orientation, adding overhangs, placement of windows, and more. These methods are easy to implement and make a big difference in the long term energy costs.

Passive Solar Design reduces energy usage by bringing in more natural light.

Passive Solar Design maximizes natural light inside the Oculus in New York City. (Image courtesy of Unsplash)

Can I incorporate green architecture into a renovation project? 

Absolutely! We can incorporate almost all green choices available for new buildings into existing structures. Some things, like Passive Solar Design, may take a little more creativity in this situation…but hey, that’s what we architects do

Are you craving a more sustainable lifestyle? Do you want to reduce energy costs from the get-go in your new building? We would love to chat with you about how to design an energy-efficient building. Contact us to schedule a consultation today!

What to Expect When You Hire an Architect


You’re about to take on a building design or renovation project, and you’ve decided to hire professional help. Maybe you are still determining whether you should work with an architect or a designer, or perhaps you’ve already decided. Either way, knowing what to expect from an architect will help you solidify that decision. 





During this no-cost phone call or in-person meeting, you will get a sense of the architect’s personality and communication style. Do they understand your vision for the building? Are you a fan of their previous work? The initial consultation is crucial for determining whether the architect is a good match for your project, so it’s a good idea to ask a few questions about their portfolio and project experience.


Treat this conversation as an interview, but don’t forget that this first meeting is essential for the architect, too. The more details you can supply upfront, the more aligned their proposal will be with your goals.


Another good reason to be detailed in this initial consultation is that it is the only way for an architect to estimate the price of a project accurately. If you’re like most people, the total cost of construction is a significant, if not the greatest, concern you have. If your architect knows how much you are comfortable spending, they can keep that in mind as they draft the proposal. The first conversation is the perfect time to discuss an ideal budget and timeline for your project.


What to Expect When You Hire an Architect


How much does it cost to hire an architect?


Speaking of construction expenses; you might be wondering how much it costs to hire an architect to design the building in the first place. Maybe you’ve even looked around online, but your search came up short. The reason for that is some architects charge hourly, but most charge a percentage of the completed project’s cost (or a combination of both).

What if you don’t yet know the full scope of the project? That’s where our experience comes in. When you book a consultation with Trio Design, we will be sure to ask plenty of questions about the future building.  With an understanding of its purpose, size, location, your ideal timeline, and budget, we will give you an estimate based on the actual work we anticipate.





After the consultation, your architect will put together a proposal based on the information you gave them. This is your chance to see whether they understood your vision and if you like the direction they are taking the design.


The proposal should be clear and easy to understand. At Trio Design, we break it down into the phases of work to help our clients visualize not only what their building will look like, but also the step by step process of how we are going to get to the finish line. 


Our proposals typically include some additional options, allowing our clients to choose the pieces of the design that best fit their needs.





If you like the proposal presented to you, a contract will be prepared, signed, and the architect will get to work. 


This is when the nitty-gritty pieces of the process take place, the things that made you want or need to hire an architect in the first place. The proposal showed you the face of the building and gave you a visualization of how the final product will look. Now, though, your architect is focused on the bones: the schematic design. This more detailed design includes figuring out how the structure will be supported, where electrical wires and pipes will run, and how to make the building as environmentally friendly as possible. At the end of this process, you will have a plan for a building that is not only beautifully crafted but also functional, safe, and energy-efficient.


How long does it take to get through the architectural design process?


After finalizing the schematic design, your architect will draw up the plans for construction. Completing Construction Documents can take a few weeks to a few months depending on the size and scope of the project. During this time, the architect works with a team of professionals to complete all the drawings required for a building permit. This process also helps the contractor price and build the building or space. 


Certain building permits will be needed, which can be obtained by your architect as well. This process can take a few weeks, depending on location and type of building. Once the permits are established, the real fun begins: your building is ready for construction!





As we mentioned in our last blog, project management is a key piece of what an architect does. The architect will work closely with your contractor, who you may select. If you do not already have someone in mind for the job and need a recommendation for high-quality, reliable contractors, please reach out. We know several whom we would love to connect you with!


When construction begins, your architect will take care of Construction Administration, a fancy term for checking in on the construction team. You can expect your architect to pop in at the construction site often, even weekly, to observe the project’s progress. When they visit, they will review the work for compliance with the drawings and design, as well as local building codes. During this process, the architect often represents the owner and works with the construction team when the inevitable ‘bumps’ during the construction process arise. Doing so helps ensure local and national building codes will be met, protecting the health, safety, and well-being of anyone who enters the completed building and your project is built the way you and the design team intended. 


Ready to get started?


We would love to speak with you about your next project! Contact our team to schedule a free consultation today. 


Architects vs. Designers: What You Need to Know
Here are the differences between architects and designers.

Architects vs. Designers:

What You Need to Know

Whether you are redesigning an existing space or building a new one from the ground up, finding the right professional to help you with a design project can be a daunting task.

After all, this kind of project is a financial investment. It will add value to your home or business, and it’s important for the job to be done well! But with so many choices out there, who do you hire for expert help? An architect, a designer, or both? And what’s the difference between the two, anyway?

Although these professions overlap in many areas like room layout and space planning, there are some key differences between them. Knowing these differences can help you decide who will be the best fit for the scope of your project.

Knowing the differences between architects and designers will help you decide who to hire for your next project.

Photo: Outsite Co

Licensing and Qualifications

The biggest difference you will find between architects and designers is in their certifications and levels of training.


The title “architect” is firmly regulated on a national level, which means not anyone can call themselves one. A licensed architect must have earned either a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in architecture (5-6 years). On top of that degree, they are required to gain enough experience working at an architectural firm (3-5 years) to pass the Architect Registration Exam (ARE). Once that has been passed, they can then receive a formal registration number.

Because this process is so strict, you can be certain that when you hire an architect, they are both highly qualified and experienced enough to design any building: a residential home, an office building, a grocery store, a tumbling gym…you name it, an architect can create it. The end product will be functional, aesthetically pleasing, and strong. It is an architect’s responsibility to meet the local and national building codes, protecting the health, safety, and welfare of those who live or work in the completed building. Being well-versed in sustainable and energy-efficient building practices, an architect will also work to reducing the environmental impact of your project.

Architects are regulated on a national level, ensuring quality and experience.

Photo: Jason Briscoe


In contrast, the term “designer” is not nationally regulated, meaning qualifications vary greatly, and small changes in title can indicate very different things. While just about anyone could start a business as a designer, to be licensed as an interior designer here in Utah, the individual must meet a few requirements set by the CIDQ (Council for Interior Design Qualification).

This does not mean that a designer is unqualified for a project. It only means that there is a wider variance in level of training and experience among them. If you need to spruce up an existing space through the use of color, lighting, and furniture, hiring a designer can be a great option. After all, Fixer Upper star Joanna Gaines didn’t receive any formal design training, but she had a natural talent that has turned into a very successful career.

Architects follow local and national building codes to ensure safety.

Photo: Le Creuset


Another thing to consider when deciding between hiring an architect or hiring a designer is the scope of your project (are you renovating one room, or completely transforming your home?) and how involved in the project you want to be.

An architect is trained and highly skilled at project management. They can coordinate the entire project, from conception to the very last detail, even hiring contractors and obtaining appropriate building permits for you if needed.

Architects visit the construction site multiple times throughout the course of the project to ensure that the building being built matches the one they designed for you. Hiring an architect means you have someone to represent you, handling the nitty gritty details of a project, whereas with a designer, you may end up being a little more involved in those things.

Always interview an architect or designer before hiring them for your project.

Photo: Le Creuset

All of this said, please keep in mind that both designers and architects are human, and humans are not all alike.

Some designers have more educational qualifications than others, and some architects have a better eye for aesthetic design than others. A detail-oriented architect with a strong eye for design can give you the best of both worlds.

No matter which type of professional you decide to work with, you should always look at their portfolio and schedule an interview before hiring them. This ensures the person or team you hire is a good fit for you and your unique project.

master bathroom before + after

The Master Bath at Our House with the Red Barn, was a little outdated… to say the least.  It was a 3/4 bath, with wall to wall pink carpet and open to the rest of the master bathroom.  The shower + toilet room (also carpeted) in all of it’s musty mildew-y glory was screaming for help!

In order to reduce costs, we tried to keep the existing plumbing where it was.  With somewhat limited options for growth to improve efficiency, we chose to leave the  shower and toilet in place and forego a private toilet room, we were able to relocate the closets to add a free standing tub to upgrade the space (always considering resale value) to a full bath.  We implemented a dark color materials palette on white walls that played on variations of the same shape and with different sheen finishes.  Start scrollin’ now for the, the before + during & after.


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‘The ache for home lived in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.’

– Maya Angelou


Brittany 2016 Website 3Hi, I’m Brittany the Principal Architect of Trio Design.  I’m also a wife and mother, an architect, a lover of nature, a part time chicken wrangler and I’m also someone who is constantly planning my next adventure/vacation.  I started Trio Design about 2 years ago after getting licensed as an Architect here in Utah.  Over these past two years, I’ve watched my business grow, and I’ve learned a lot in a short period of time; about people, business, design, and construction.  One of the things I’ve realized most, is how much I love thinking about how people use a space, and most specifically how one LIVES in a space.  Previously, most of my professional experience had been in small commercial and ecclesiastical work, each night I’d go home thinking about HOME.

Last year at this time, my family of four was living in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, UT in a 2700 sq. ft. home, it was comfortable quiet, clean.  But I looked in the unfinished basement and realized we had all of the ‘stuff’.  ‘Stuff’ from childhood,  old decorations, sports equipment, unused furniture, broken lamps to be fixed, etc.  About this same time our family took a vacation, where we stayed in a small 900 square foot rental home near the beach; now it might have been that fresh sea breeze or the time away from all of that ‘stuff’ but I realized we needed to purge.  Everything we needed to live, was right there with us, the four of us.  That’s it.  Our life was comfortable, and beautiful, but we needed path to simplify, and I had a feeling it would be an adventure.  I also realized that my husband and I were already armed with the skills we needed.

Within a week of arriving home from vacation, my husband stumbled upon an old 70s ‘fixer upper’ not far from where we lived currently.  Flash forward to present day, and we are now living in that home fully renovated.  Over the next few weeks, I’m going to chronicle that journey, the renovation highs and lows of ‘picking up and moving’ practically overnight, to ‘Our House with the Red Barn’ as my daughter fondly named our ‘new’ home.  I want to share our trials and successes, what it was like to ‘be my own client’ with tips and tricks for simple clean design and saving money, how to stick to your budget and prioritize design goals.  I also want to share how the way we lived, evolved through this process and how the meaning of ‘home’ transformed along the way.

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