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Survey Shows Uneven Economic Picture for Landscape Architecture Firms

Billable hours rise; near-term hiring plans downsized

Landscape architecture firms are experiencing sluggish but steady growth as they emerge from the recession, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects’ second quarter 2013 Business Quarterly survey. More firms reported stable or rising billable hours but have pared down their plans to hire.

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Fully 82.8 percent of firm representatives responding indicated stable to higher billable hours in the second quarter of 2013, compared to 76.1 percent last quarter. Some 83.5 percent reported stable to higher inquiries for work, representing a slight drop from 85.8 percent last quarter.

Year to year, 63.5 percent claimed slightly to significantly higher first-quarter inquiries from potential clients for new project work. Additionally, 60.8 percent indicated first-quarter billable hours remained about the same or were higher.

This mixed picture has caused firms to downsize their near-term hiring plans. Of all firms with two or more employees, 49 percent indicated they would be hiring in the second quarter of 2013, compared to 54.5 percent last quarter. Some 30.9 percent of firms with two or more employees said they plan to hire a landscape architect next quarter, either entry-level or experienced, a slight dip from 31.7 percent previously. Half of responding firms with 50 to 99 employees plan to hire an entry-level landscape architect.

“This survey provides further confirmation that the landscape architecture profession is gradually emerging from the recession, but we still need to see better job numbers,” says Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA, executive vice president and CEO of ASLA. “Until that happens, recovery will continue to be a cautious one.”

The survey also asked firms about computing and mobile technologies employed by their employees to manage files and projects. Top devices or services included desktop computers (97.2 percent), smartphones (64.3 percent) and an office Wi-Fi network (59 percent). Only 31.7 percent of firms indicated their employees use cloud computing; overall, 59 percent of responding firms indicated they were not sure that cloud computing makes them more productive and profitable.

While 62.2 percent said day-to-day-business is dependent on such technologies as smartphones and tablets, 89.3 percent noted that their employees do not use iPads or other tablets to design. Firms are essentially evenly divided as to whether they provide mobile devices to their employees, with 50.2 percent answering yes and 49.8 percent answering no.
BQ 2013 Q3
Key Survey Highlights:
Compared to the first quarter 2013, your second quarter 2013 billable hours were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 20.1%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 36.7%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 26.0%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 10.0%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 7.2%

Compared to the first quarter 2013, your second quarter 2013 inquiries for new work were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 21.3%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 34.4%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 27.8%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 9.1%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 7.5%

Year to year, compared to the second quarter in 2012, your second quarter 2013 billable hours were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 29.0%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 31.8%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 20.1%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 9.6%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 9.6%

Year to year, compared to the second quarter in 2012, your second quarter 2013 inquiries for new work were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 30.8%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 32.7%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 22.9%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 7.0%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 6.7%

Do you plan on hiring any employees in the third quarter of 2013 (multiple answers)?
Yes, we’ll be hiring an experienced landscape architect – 9.7%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an entry-level landscape architect – 15.4%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an intern – 6.0%
Yes, we’ll be hiring support staff – 9.1%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other design/architecture/engineering staff – 14.4%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other staff – 6.3%
No, we’re not currently hiring – 58.9%

Which computing devices or services do your employees use to manage files and projects (multiple answers)?
Desktop computers – 97.2%
Smart phones – 64.3%
Tablets – 38.5%
Multiple monitors – 54.3%
Office Wi-Fi network – 59.0%
Cloud computing – 31.7%

Cloud computing services make our firm more productive and profitable.
Yes – 23.1%
No – 18.3%
Not sure – 59.0%

Is your firm’s day-to-day business dependent on such technologies as smart phones and tablets?
Yes – 62.2%
No – 33.8%
Not sure – 4.4%

Does your firm use iPads or other tablets to design?
Yes – 10.7%
No – 89.3%

Does your firm provide mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets to your employees?
Yes – 50.2%
No – 49.8%

About the Survey
The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Business Quarterly survey asks quarterly benchmarks on key statistics including billable hours, inquiries, and hiring plans. The Q2 2013 national survey was fielded July 11 to 31, 2013, with 324 primary firm contacts responding.

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