News
Survey Finds Steady Economic Improvement for Landscape Architecture Firms
Meeting government requirements, saving money on utility or maintenance costs are top reasons clients choose sustainable design options
2010-10-26
 Washington, D.C., October 26, 2010 – The slow march towards economic recovery continues for landscape architecture firms. In the latest American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Business Quarterly survey, more than half of responding landscape architecture firm leaders reported steady or increased billable hours and inquires for new work. These numbers represent the third quarter in a row of positive findings outpacing negative.  

According to the survey, two thirds (65.6 percent) of firm leaders reported steady or above billable hours in the third quarter of 2010. Similarly, seven in ten (69.9 percent) reported steady or higher inquires for new work in the same period. The findings – similar to the second quarter results – represent the fourth time in the previous five quarters where firms reported average or above levels of work.

The relative optimism has not transferred into new jobs, with only 14.6 percent planning to hire in the upcoming quarter – down from 17.3 percent last quarter but up from 11.8 percent this time last year. Like elsewhere in the economy, firm leaders appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach to hiring despite reporting an improved business climate.  

“We continue to see incremental signs of improvement, like work from projects originally put on hold due to the recession,” said ASLA Executive Vice President and CEO Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA. “However, firms face significant hurdles due to lack of project financing and heavy competition for a still small new business pool.”

The survey also asked about why clients choose sustainable design techniques. The top reasons include meeting government requirements (50.4 percent), saving money on utility or maintenance costs (43.1 percent), adding marketing cache (38.7 percent) and reducing environmental harm (38.1 percent). These results are similar to the Q3 2009 survey.

Compared to the second quarter 2010, your third quarter 2010 billable hours were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 9.9%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 26.2%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 29.5%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 18.0%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 16.5%

Compared to the second quarter 2010, your third quarter 2010 inquiries for new work were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 10.0%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 28.5%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 31.4%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 15.7%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 14.4%

Year to year, compared to the third quarter in 2009, your third quarter 2010 billable hours were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 17.0%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 17.5%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 22.1%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 19.5%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 23.9%

Year to year, compared to the third quarter in 2009, your third quarter 2010 inquiries for new work were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 15.5%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 24.0%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 26.2%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 14.6%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 19.7%

Do you plan on hiring any employees in the fourth quarter of 2010 (multiple answers)?
Yes, we’ll be hiring an experienced landscape architect – 5.2%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an entry level landscape architect – 4.1%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an intern – 1.3%
Yes, we’ll be hiring support staff – 2.8%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other design/architecture/engineering staff – 2.4%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other staff – 1.3%
No, we’re not currently hiring – 85.4%

Rate client knowledge of sustainable design practices:
Very knowledgeable – 9.6%
Somewhat knowledgeable – 48.0%
Not very knowledgeable, but interested – 35.4%
Neither knowledgeable nor interested – 7.0%

Reasons clients request sustainable design techniques (multiple answers):
To be eligible for a government incentive, such as a tax break or quicker approval – 28.1%
To reduce environmental harm – 38.1%
To save money on utility or maintenance costs – 43.1%
To meet requirements by government regulation, code or construction standard – 50.4%
To lower upkeep time and effort – 23.8%
To add marketing cache – 38.7%
Clients are not requesting sustainable design – 16.0%
Other – 11.0%

Does your firm highlight sustainable design in marketing or new business outreach?
My firm makes sustainability a central part of most or all marketing and new business, regardless if sustainability is required or not – 39.8%
My firm always uses sustainability when potential new business requires it, but only sometimes when it is not a central part of new business requirements – 35.0%
My firm only uses sustainability when potential new business requires it – 12.2%
Sustainable design is not a significant factor in my marketing and new business outreach – 13.0%

Using sustainability in my marketing and new business provides a competitive advantage to my firm:
Most or all of the time – 14.6%
Some of the time – 54.3%
Rarely or never – 21.3%
Not a significant factor in my marketing and new business outreach – 9.8%

About the Survey
The ASLA Business Quarterly survey asks quarterly benchmarks on key statistics including billable hours, inquiries and hiring plans. The Q3 2010 national survey was fielded October 11 through 24, with 465 firm representatives responding.


contact

Karen T. Grajales
Manager, Public Relations 
tel: 1-202-216-2371
ktgrajales@asla.org
@ktgrajales

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