EDI received 2022 Gold ELITE Award Email
Written by Lyn Dean   
Monday, June 12, 2023 12:00 AM

Colorado Green Now

EDI designed for shelter-in-place pandemic response 

Homeowners wanted a backyard getaway  

“This project started during the pandemic lockdown when the family – whose children were getting to the teen years wanted to minimize exposure while enjoying recreation in their own yard,” says Lyle Fair, project manager at Environmental Designs, Inc. (EDI). Yet, the Westminster homeowners, who are active in the community, were also looking longer term and wanted a backyard that could host neighborhood parties and their children’s sports teams and have quiet gathering spaces. 

Complex and creative design 

While the property is relatively flat, the 3-foot gain in elevation from the house to the back property line was critical for design of the pool and surrounding pool deck and planters. The challenge was multi-fold. Easements and setbacks on the property meant the pool location had to be in the middle of the yard. Not only did the pool coping have to match the grade at the property line, but the numerous hardscape features requested by the client starting from the existing patio attached to the house – had to flow upward in elevation 

It took a complex plan of retaining walls, which were designed as raised planting beds at different levels, to flow up to the pool and hot tub. EDI’s design worked to separate spaces while maintaining cohesion and circulation within the landscape.  

According to Fair, the backyard is now about 85% hardscapes, including the raised planters serving as retaining walls. This created another challenge. With the pool, hot tub with waterfall, patios, planters and fire pits, there was little permeable yard space,” he says. “We had to install collector boxes and pipes to move water from the downspouts beyond the hardscape.  

Though little turf remains in the backyard, the planters are filled with a variety of low-water plants. To provide immediate privacy from neighboring homes, 2-2.5-inch caliper trees were planted along the rear property line. A year later, the trees were growing and thriving. 

Change orders and design changes 

“We found a few problems as the project unfolded,” recalls Fair. “Part of the new design included tying in the existing brick-paver patio. There were issues with the initial installation that the homeowner inherited.” The EDI team had to remove the pavers and completely reinstall, leading to a change order. 

A pergola with a firepit below was part of the original design, but during construction, the client wanted to make the firepit bigger and therefore the pergola also had to be larger, triggering another change order. Not only did the design have to be modified againthe larger pergola interfered with one of the planters – the pergola was a custom order with a 12-week lead time.  

Additionally, the client wanted French doors from the house. The EDI team had to make more design changes to ensure the patio met the doorway at the right elevation. 

Trickle-down effect – lesson learned 

Fair emphasizes the importance of “flawless” communication with subcontractors. On this project, the homeowners contracted directly with the pool contractor. A pool is usually installed first before most other landscape construction begins.  

As the EDI team stepped into construction of the rest of the landscape, they had some surprises. It turns out, the elevation of the pool was not verified against the design and was installed 4 inches above the target elevation. The trickle-down effect was that Fair, his team and the homeowners had to come up with solutions. Moving up from the existing patio, stair risers had to be changed.  

A job well done 

Eliminating a lot of turf resulted in more plant diversity and hence biodiversity. Plants grouped by hydro zones are watered with drip irrigation and planters drain to the one below if there is runoff. From a sustainability perspective, water use is lower – after the initial filling of the pool, of course. Landscape lighting creates a relaxing ambience. 

The family has a dynamic and functional backyard that meets their needs. EDI now has a maintenance contract with the homeowners, which speaks to their trust in the company and its people. 

EDI received ALCC’s 2022 Gold ELITE Award for Residential Landscape Construction for this project – Schaknowski Residence. 

Article was featured in our May/June Colorado Green magazine issue.