The Latest in Design Software

How AI developments can help designers create plans for their customers.

2024 01 22 16 28 05 Realistic Rendering Style, Angled Traces, Landscape Public Park, Night Time,(1)

The idea of artificial intelligence (AI) can make some people wary, but there are ways that AI can make landscape designers’ processes easier and more efficient.  

“I might suggest that everyone has an opportunity to look at what AI can do for them,” says Eric Gilbey, product marketing manager for the landscape industries at Vectorworks. “One person might use it for plant palette, and another might use it for irrigation parts, but AI is going to become flexible to the person who needs it.”

Gilbey and Shiva Dhawan, CEO at, explain how landscape designers can best leverage this technology for both creation and estimation purposes.

Design creation

One major update with AI comes with image generation, where a designer can give some prompts to an AI bot, and it will find or create images from image sources.

“The one that won me over was generating images of plants that a designer might use for the 3D landscape representations,” Gilbey says. “If someone’s having a challenge finding certain images of an ornamental tree, they could use AI to find an example or create an example image in a certain shape. They might even provide the shape of the trunk and the canopy as a guide to say I’m looking for something that’s mature.”

Gilbey notes that this type of image generation can be used for sculptures, trellis work and other items, in addition to plants.

Another AI feature designers may take advantage of is the rendering of 3D model views. For example, if a designer wants to come up with a general model of a landscape and they want something that looks Mediterranean, they may ask AI to take this model that sets up a scene for the property to run them through these styles, and AI would come back with examples.

“A lot of folks in our user base are investigating this,” Gilbey says. “This helps inspire the designer to think outside of their own mindset. It’s not always 100 percent appropriate for the site they’re working on, but they’re just getting general ideas and using it for layout examples. Let’s hope they are still trying to become unique and individualized where they can, using the example as inspiration but not knocking it off.”

Gilbey says the designer’s efficiency is enhanced because they’re using AI to build knowledge and more easily locate certain materials for the design.

Design estimation

On the other hand, the latest AI developments in estimating software involve leveraging advanced AI algorithms to analyze high-resolution aerial imagery, allowing for the automatic detection and measurement of landscape features that get autopopulated into an estimate and proposal.

Because AI has made it possible to extract data out of blueprints as well, design-build firms can also automate landscape construction takeoffs.

“These AI-driven developments allow landscapers and designers to streamline their workflow significantly,” says Dhawan. “For starters, they can say goodbye to the time-consuming process of manual measurements and the potential inaccuracies that come with it. Contractors and sales reps can quote jobs faster while ensuring their bids are profitable and competitive.”

Dhawan notes that using this type of software for estimation can also help build trust with potential clients.

“The professional and detailed proposals with HD sitemaps generated by such software demonstrate a commitment to precision and quality, building trust with potential clients,” Dhawan says. “This combination of speed, accuracy and professionalism sets them apart in the competitive landscaping market.”

Selling process

Whether a company uses software for design generation or estimation, the result is the same: faster bids.

“The idea of less time in design is typical, so (AI in design software) would be helpful for them because they can generate styles more quickly without spending much more time doing the actual drawings or renderings,” Gilbey says. “Also, more alternatives can be considered because the designer is spending less time doing that.”

Dhawan agrees that using AI can generate faster bids.

“By employing AI in their estimating process, landscape professionals can provide faster responses to bid requests, which is 60 percent of the time a key factor in winning contracts,” Dhawan says. “The accuracy of AI-powered estimates also means they can competitively price their services while ensuring profitability.”


While AI does have its benefits, there are a few items landscape professionals should keep in mind.

“Sometimes you might get a completely different response from an AI chatbox when you put in a similar question with just a few different terms,” Gilbey says. “So, you just need to dig a little deeper and ask it questions in different ways and make sure you’re consistent with what you’re learning.”

For the image generation question, the main concern revolves around intellectual property use, Gilbey says.  

“It’s this idea of whether or not you are stealing someone else’s design style,” Gilbey says. “I do believe there’s going to be some things legislatively to protect the intellectual property content of imagery.”

Looking ahead

In the next few years, Dhawan says he expects AI and software in the landscaping industry to become even more intelligent and integrated.

“Generative AI is coming in estimates to make it faster and is built upon existing data and jobs that were the most profitable,” Dhawan says. “Generative AI is going to change the landscape completely.”

Gilbey says he would like to see simulations of what a landscape will do over time.

“It would be a solution to simulate how the plant materials grow. Is it growing out of its space? Is it seeking water that may not come naturally? Are the materials’ lifespans long enough?” Gilbey says.

Building on that, Gilbey says he hopes designers embrace AI to propose landscapes that are sustainable and better-performing.

“Maybe AI and design software can tag team in this effort where they’re improving the project and improving the way it treats the environment,” Gilbey says.