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Economic Outlook Brightens According to ASLA Business Quarterly Survey

Notable jump in billings, inquiries for new work, hiring plans

The outlook remains positive for landscape architecture firms, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects’ second quarter 2014 Business Quarterly survey. The survey revealed a marked rise in billable hours and inquiries for new work, and hiring plans rose slightly from the last quarter.

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Fully 84.7 percent reported stable to significantly higher inquiries for new work, an increase from 80.2 percent last quarter. In addition, 82.42 percent indicated stable to significantly higher billable hours, compared to 72.2 percent last quarter.

Year to year, 85.17 percent noted stable to significantly higher second-quarter inquiries for new work, higher than the second quarter of 2013 (83.4 percent). Additionally, 81.32 percent indicated second-quarter billable hours remained about the same or were higher, a jump from the second quarter of 2013 (76 percent).

Of all firms with two or more employees, more than half (51.75 percent) said they planned to hire in the third quarter of 2014, slightly more than the previous quarter (49.4 percent). Some 62.5 percent of firms with 50-99 employees will be hiring an experienced landscape architect in the third quarter of 2014.

“The survey indicates widespread strengthening of the landscape architecture industry," says Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA, executive vice president and CEO of ASLA. "We are very much encouraged by the growth shown during the second quarter and rise in hiring plans, particularly among mid-sized firms. Hopefully, these signs point to continued growth for the rest of this year."

The survey included questions related to ASLA’s 2014 public awareness campaign, themed the “Value of Landscape Architecture.” Some 12.6 percent of respondents noted that their firms collected statistical evidence that landscape architecture can add economic value to communities. These respondents added that their firms had been able to quantify the following items based on their landscape architecture work: increase in property values (26.1 percent), increase in the number of businesses near multi-use active open spaces (23.2 percent), and reduction in water consumption and costs (20.3 percent).

The respondents also selected the following landscape architecture components that best raise community property values: multi-use active open spaces, including bike paths, parks, trails, and gardens (84.1 percent); master plans for high-density urban neighborhoods that combine multi-use active open spaces, sustainability, and access to public transit (71.0 percent); and accessible ways to walk to local businesses, including complete streets, trails, and sidewalks (62.3 percent).

Key Survey Highlights:
Compared to the first quarter 2014, your second quarter 2014 billable hours were:

Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 13.74%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 32.97%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 35.71%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 13.74%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 3.85%

Compared to the first quarter 2014, your second quarter 2014 inquiries for new work were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 13.66%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 40.44%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 30.60%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 10.38%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 4.92%

Year to year, compared to the second quarter in 2013, your second quarter 2014 billable hours were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 24.18%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 35.71%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 21.43%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 12.64%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 6.04%

Year to year, compared to the second quarter in 2013, your second quarter 2014 inquiries for new work were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 17.03%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 44.51%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 23.63%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 10.44%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 4.40%

Do you plan on hiring any employees in the third quarter of 2014 (multiple answers)?
Yes, we’ll be hiring an experienced landscape architect – 12.02%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an entry-level landscape architect – 20.22%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an intern – 5.46%
Yes, we’ll be hiring support staff – 7.65%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other design/architecture/engineering staff – 9.84%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other staff – 3.83%
No, we’re not currently hiring – 59.02%

Does your firm have statistical evidence that landscape architecture can add economic value to communities?
Yes – 12.57%
No – 58.47%
Don’t know – 30.05%

Our firm has been able to quantify the following items based on our landscape architecture project work (multiple answers):
Increase in number of businesses near multi-use active open spaces – 23.19%
Increase in tax income for communities – 10.14%
Increase in home sales – 14.49%
Increase in property values – 26.09%
Reduction in water consumption and costs – 20.29%

Select the following landscape architecture components that best raise community property values (multiple answers):
Multi-use active open spaces (including bike paths, parks, trails, and gardens) – 84.06%
Accessible ways to walk to local businesses (including complete streets, trails, and sidewalks) – 62.32%
Master plans for high-density urban neighborhoods that combine multi-use active open spaces, sustainability, and access to public transit – 71.01%
Green roofs – 18.84%
Drought-tolerant landscape design – 36.23%

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 survey is not intended to be statistically significant but instead provides a snapshot of the landscape architecture industry. The Q2 2014 national survey was fielded July 9 to July 31, 2014, with 184 primary firm contacts responding.

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