ASLA Business Survey Shows Steady Conditions for Landscape Architecture Firms

Business is picking up for landscape architecture firms, according to the American of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Business Quarterly survey for the third quarter of 2018. Based on the responses of 121 primary firm contacts, the survey indicates that billable hours and inquiries for new work have improved from the previous quarter. Hiring plans have remained steady.

A five-year comparison of survey results shows that numbers for the third quarter are well within range of previous trends. The survey is not intended to be statistically significant but instead provides a snapshot of the landscape architecture industry.

Some 84 percent of those surveyed indicated stable to significantly higher billable hours for the third quarter, an increase from the 80.2 percent reported for the second quarter. This value is within range of what had been reported for the third quarters of 2017 (85.7 percent), 2016 (78.4 percent), 2015 (83.4 percent) and 2014 (84.2 percent).

Similarly, 82.5 percent of those surveyed reported stable to significantly higher inquiries for new work, a modest increase over the 81.7 percent reported the previous quarter. This value is within range of what had been reported for the third quarters of 2017 (82.1 percent), 2016 (80.3 percent), 2015 (81.6 percent) and 2014 (83.9 percent).

Year to year, 79.8 percent of respondents indicated that billable hours were stable to significantly higher, a drop from the 84.2 percent reported for the third quarter of 2017. This value is still within range of what had been reported for 2016 (80.4 percent), 2015 (81.3 percent) and 2014 (82.4 percent).

Year to year, fully 81.4 percent of survey participants reported stable to significantly higher inquiries for new work, below what had been reported for the third quarter of 2017 (85.6 percent). It is on the low end of what had been reported for the third quarters of 2016 (82.0 percent), 2015 (84.5 percent) and 2014 (86.1 percent).

Some 52.7 percent of respondents from firms with two or more employees said they plan to hire during the fourth quarter of 2018, about the same as what had been reported for the second quarter of 2018 (53 percent). This value surpasses the percentages reported for the third quarters of 2017 (49.0 percent), 2016 (48.0 percent), 2015 (48.0 percent) and 2014 (48.1 percent). Fully 60 percent of respondents from firms with 50 to 99 employees said their offices planned on hiring experienced or entry-level landscape architects.

A question added to the survey asked respondents to indicate whether or not their firms’ recruiting and hiring practices seek to increase diversity. Some 56 percent of respondents from firms with two or more employees indicated they have an established diversity process or plan to establish such a process.

Key Survey Highlights

Compared to the second quarter 2018, your third quarter 2018 billable hours were (all firms):
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 13.5%
Slightly higher (5% to 10% higher) – 29.4%
About the same (plus or minus 5% or less) – 41.2%
Slightly lower (between 5% and 10% lower) – 9.2%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 6.7%

Compared to the second quarter 2018, your third quarter 2018 inquiries for new work were (all firms):
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 12.5%
Slightly higher (5% to 10% higher) – 35.0%
About the same (plus or minus 5% or less) – 35.0%
Slightly lower (between 5% and 10% lower) – 10.8%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 6.7%

Year to year, compared to the third quarter in 2017, your third quarter 2018 billable hours were (all firms):
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 24.4%
Slightly higher (5% to 10% higher) – 31.1%
About the same (plus or minus 5% or less) – 24.4%
Slightly lower (between 5% and 10% lower) – 10.9%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 9.2%

Year to year, compared to the third quarter in 2017, your third quarter 2018 inquiries for new work were (all firms):
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 21.2%
Slightly higher (5% to 10% higher) – 28.8%
About the same (plus or minus 5% or less) – 31.4%
Slightly lower (between 5% and 10% lower) – 11.9%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 6.8%

Do you plan on hiring any employees in the fourth quarter of 2018 (multiple answers filtered for firms with two or more employees)?
Yes, we’ll be hiring an experienced landscape architect – 22.0%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an entry level landscape architect – 20.9%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an intern – 8.8%
Yes, we’ll be hiring support staff – 6.6%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other design/architecture/engineering staff – 15.4%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other staff – 7.7%
No, we’re currently not hiring – 47.3%

Do your firm’s recruiting and hiring practices seek to increase workplace diversity 2018 (multiple answers filtered for firms with two or more employees)?
Yes, we have an established process – 46.2%
No, but we are planning to develop a process – 9.9%
No, we currently do not – 44.0%

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