News

ASLA Survey: Landscape Architecture Firms Report Subdued Conditions

Billable hours and hiring plans drop, while inquiries for new work rise

2017-04-20

Business conditions flattened for landscape architecture firms during the first three months of 2017, according to the newest American Society of Landscape Architects’ Business Quarterly survey. During the first quarter of this year, firms reported a dip in billable hours and hiring plans, while inquiries for new work picked up from the previous quarter.

A multi-year comparison of survey results reveals an important takeaway: business conditions remain stable as firms enter the second quarter of 2017.

The survey found 75.84 percent reported stable to significantly higher billable hours, a drop from the 77.12 percent the previous quarter. This result is below what had been reported for the first quarters of 2016 (80.76 percent), 2015 (82.02 percent) and 2013 (76.1 percent). It is greater than first quarter results for 2014 (72.2 percent).

Some 85.39 percent answered that inquiries for new work were stable to significantly higher during the first quarter of 2017, a notable rise from the 77.77 percent the previous quarter. This result outperforms what had been reported for the first quarters of 2016 (80.43 percent) and 2014 (80.2 percent). It is about the same as first quarter results for 2015 (85.34 percent) and 2013 (85.5 percent).

The survey found that year to year, some 76.27 percent of firms said that billable hours were stable to significantly higher. This result is higher than what had been reported for the first quarter of 2016 (75.66 percent), but below figures reported for 2015 (80.52 percent). It is about the same as year-to-year results reported for the first quarter of 2014 (76 percent) and 2013 (76.1 percent).

Year to year, some 84.09 percent indicated that first quarter inquiries for new work were stable to significantly higher. This result is a jump from the year-to-year results reported for the first quarter of 2016 (81.05 percent), 2015 (83.24 percent) and 2013 (59.5 percent). It is about the same as 2014 (83.4 percent).

The majority of firms with two or more employees (52.55 percent) say they plan to hire during the second quarter of 2017, a drop from the fourth quarter 2016 survey (57.33 percent). This result is a drop from the numbers reported for the first quarter surveys in 2016 (59.44 percent), 2015 (61.54 percent) and 2013 (54.5 percent). It is greater than the 49.4 percent reported in 2014.

Some 77.77 percent of firms with 10 to 49 employees also say they will hire either an experienced landscape architect or an entry-level landscape architect.

Because April is World Landscape Architecture Month, the survey asked respondents to describe their firms’ career discovery efforts. The majority of firms (52.81 percent) have not participated in K-12 student outreach specifically related to the landscape architecture profession.

Of the participating firms (44.94 percent), most have visited an elementary, middle or high school to talk about landscape architecture careers (97.47 percent). Fully 55.84 percent of these school visits focused on high school students, followed by elementary (46.75 percent) and middle schools (40.26 percent). The majority (54.55 percent) visited schools between two to four times.

Key Survey Highlights:

Compared to the fourth quarter 2016, your first quarter 2017 billable hours were (all firms):
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 10.67%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 33.15%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 32.02%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 17.42%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 6.74%

Compared to the fourth quarter 2017, your first quarter 2017 inquiries for new work were (all firms):
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 16.29%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 34.83%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 34.27%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 11.24%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 3.37%

Year to year, compared to the first quarter in 2016, your first quarter 2017 billable hours were (all firms):
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 15.82%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 30.51%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 29.94%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 13.56%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 10.17%

Year to year, compared to the first quarter in 2016, your first quarter 2017 inquiries for new work were (all firms):
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 14.20%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 34.66%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 35.23%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 11.36%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 4.55% 

Do you plan on hiring any employees in the second quarter of 2017 (multiple answers filtered for firms with two or more employees)?
Yes, we’ll be hiring an experienced landscape architect – 13.87%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an entry-level landscape architect – 23.36%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an intern – 21.90%
Yes, we’ll be hiring support staff – 6.57%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other design/architecture/engineering staff – 7.30%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other staff – 4.38%
No, we’re not currently hiring – 47.45%

Has your firm ever participated in K-12 outreach that was specifically related to the landscape architecture profession?
Yes – 44.94%
No – 52.81%
Not sure – 2.25% 

As part of your firm’s K-12 outreach, did you visit an elementary, middle or high school to talk about the profession?
Yes – 97.47%
No – 2.53% 

If yes, what grades did you talk to (multiple answers)?
Elementary school (grades K to 5) – 46.75%
Middle school (grades 6 to 8) – 40.26%
High school (grades 9 to 12) – 55.84% 

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 Q1 2017 national survey was fielded April 3 to April 17, 2017, with 178 primary firm contacts responding.

About ASLA
Founded in 1899, the American Society of Landscape Architects is the national professional association for landscape architects, representing more than 15,000 members in 49 professional chapters and 72 student chapters. Members of the Society use "ASLA" after their names to denote membership and their commitment to the highest ethical standards of the profession. Landscape architects lead the stewardship, planning and design of our built and natural environments; the Society’s mission is to advance landscape architecture through advocacy, communication, education and fellowship.

Contact

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

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