Positive Economic News Continues for Landscape Architecture Firms

For the first time in 18 months, the majority of landscape architecture firm leaders reported normal or above levels of work compared to the previous quarter, according to the latest American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Business Quarterly survey.

For the third quarter of 2009, 51.3 percent of firms reported average or above billings compared to the second quarter 2009, a significant increase over 32 percent last quarter. Additionally, 55.4 percent of firms reported average or above inquiries for the same time frame, up from 32.2 percent last quarter. One in five firms (20.2 percent) reported work directly related to stimulus funds.

Despite increased optimism, the job market still remains weak as only 11.8 percent of firms plan to hire in the upcoming quarter, down from 14.3 percent previously and near the all-time low of 11.2 percent from the first quarter of this year.

“Obviously this represents excellent economic progress, but the industry still faces a long road to recovery and tough challenges through at least the rest of this year,” said ASLA Executive Vice President and CEO Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA. “While there appears some improvement in public and commercial work, the residential market remains a significant problem for landscape architecture firms.”

The survey also asked firm leaders about client familiarity with sustainable design techniques and reasons for incorporating them into project. Only one in ten (10.1 percent) reported clients as very knowledgeable about sustainable design, compared to 52 percent as somewhat knowledgeable and only 3.7 percent as not knowledgeable or interested. The most popular reasons clients incorporated sustainable design into projects were saving money on utility or maintenance costs (50.7 percent), meeting a government regulation, code or construction standard (49.1 percent), marketing cache (40.6 percent) and reducing environmental harm (39.8 percent).

Compared to the second quarter of 2009, your third quarter 2009 billable hours were:

Significantly higher (10% or more higher) – 4.3%

Slightly higher (between 5% and 10% higher) – 18.8%

About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 28.2%

Slightly lower (between 5% and 10% lower) – 19.3%

Significantly lower (10% or more lower) – 19.5%

Compared to the second quarter of 2009, your third quarter 2009 inquiries were:

Significantly higher (10% or more higher) – 6.6%

Slightly higher (between 5% and 10% higher) – 20.2%

About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 28.6%

Slightly lower (between 5% and 10% lower) – 18.8%

Significantly lower (10% or more lower) – 25.7%

Compared to the third quarter in 2008, your third quarter 2009 billable hours were:

Significantly higher (10% or more higher) – 4.3%

Slightly higher (between 5% and 10% higher) – 9.8%

About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 18.8%

Slightly lower (between 5% and 10% lower) – 13.3%

Significantly lower (10% or more lower) – 53.5%

Compared to the third quarter in 2008, your third quarter 2009 inquiries were:

Significantly higher (10% or more higher) – 4.9%

Slightly higher (between 5% and 10% higher) – 14.0%

About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 18.1%

Slightly lower (between 5% and 10% lower) – 22.5%

Significantly lower (10% or more lower) – 40.4%

Do you plan on hiring any employees in the fourth quarter 2009? (multiple answers):

Experienced landscape architect – 2.1%

Entry level landscape architect – 2.9%

Intern – 2.4%

Support staff – 2.4%

Other design/architecture/engineering staff – 3.7%

Other staff – 1.8%

Not hiring – 88.2%

Has your market received any stimulus funds and, if so, has your practice benefited?

My markets have not received any funds – 29.4%

My markets have received funds, but my practice, thus far, has not received work as a result – 50.4%

My market has received funds and my practice has work as a result – 20.2%

Rate client knowledge about sustainable design practices:

Very knowledgeable – 10.1%

Somewhat knowledgeable – 52.0%

Not very knowledgeable, but interested – 34.2%

Neither knowledgeable nor interested – 3.7%

Reasons clients request sustainable design techniques (multiple answers):

Save money on utility or maintenance costs – 50.7%

Meet requirements by government regulation, code or construction standard – 49.1%

Add marketing cache – 40.6%

Reduce environmental harm – 39.8%

Eligible for government incentive such as a tax break or quicker approval – 27.9%

Lower upkeep time and effort – 27.3%

Clients are not requesting sustainable design – 10.6%

Other – 12.7%

SOURCE: ASLA