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Weak business conditions continue to affect landscape architecture firms

By From page C4 | July 27, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C., — Business activity softened for the landscape architecture profession during the second three months of 2012 but the level of billable hours grew slightly quarter to quarter, according to the American Society of Landscape Architecture Business Quarterly survey. Some year-to-year data also shows slightly weaker performance.

Quarter to quarter, Q2 2012 saw 73.4 percent of firms reporting stable or improved billable hours, and 71.2 percent reported stable or improved inquiries for new work. Of these, 45.1 percent and 41.9 percent, respectively, reported the measures as slightly or significantly higher.

Year to year, nearly three-quarters of respondents indicated lower Q2 2012 levels in new business inquiries (74.3 percent), a slight decrease from Q2 2011 (75.7 percent). They also reported a decline in billable hours (69.3 percent), compared to the 73.8 percent reported in the second quarter of last year.

Employment plans, too, reflect a very weak job market for landscape architects, with 22.3 percent of firm contacts indicating plans to hire compared to 28.2 percent in the previous quarter.

“The survey reflects the overall uncertain conditions that continue to cast a long shadow on our economy,” said Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA, executive vice president and CEO of ASLA. “The past few years have been rough for many firms, but many are managing to hold steady.”

Despite the economic picture, for example, the majority of landscape architecture firms (86.6 percent) report maintaining their independent ownership and management structure throughout the recession.

The survey also asked firm leaders to describe the increase in demand for various services since year-end 2009. Top responses included design for stormwater management (53.0 percent), low-maintenance design (41.7 percent), and region-specific design (28.6 percent).

Key survey highlights:

Compared to the first quarter 2012, your second quarter 2012 billable hours were:

• Significantly higher (more than 10 percent) – 15 percent
• Slightly higher (5 to 10 percent higher) – 30.1 percent
• About the same (plus or minus 5 percent) – 28.3 percent
• Slightly lower (5 to 10 percent lower) – 16.4 percent
• Significantly lower (more than 10 percent) – 10.2  percent

Compared to the first quarter 2012, your second quarter 2012 inquiries for new work were:

• Significantly higher (more than 10 percent) – 14 percent
• Slightly higher (5 to 10 percent higher) – 27.9 percent
• About the same (plus or minus 5 percent) – 29.3 percent
• Slightly lower (5 to 10 percent lower) – 18.8 percent
• Significantly lower (more than 10 percent) – 10 percent

Year to year, compared to the second quarter in 2011, your second quarter 2012 billable hours were:

• Significantly higher (more than 10 percent) – 20.4 percent
• Slightly higher (5 to 10 percent higher) – 31.1 percent
• About the same (plus or minus 5 percent) – 17.8 percent
• Slightly lower (5 to 10 percent lower) – 15.1 percent
• Significantly lower (more than 10 percent) – 15.6 percent

Year to year, compared to the second quarter in 2011, your second quarter 2012 inquiries for new work were:

• Significantly higher (more than 10 percent) – 19.9 percent
• Slightly higher (5 to 10 percent higher) – 29.2 percent
• About the same (plus or minus 5 percent) – 25.2 percent
• Slightly lower (5 to 10 percent lower) – 12.8 percent
• Significantly lower (more than 10 percent) – 12.8 percent

Do you plan on hiring any employees in the third quarter of 2012 (multiple answers)?

• Yes, we’ll be hiring an experienced landscape architect – 7.0 percent
• Yes, we’ll be hiring an entry-level landscape architect – 7.0 percent
• Yes, we’ll be hiring an intern – 3.5 percent
• Yes, we’ll be hiring support staff – 3.5 percent
• Yes, we’ll be hiring other design/architecture/engineering staff – 6.1 percent
• Yes, we’ll be hiring other staff – 3.1 percent
• No, we’re not currently hiring – 77.7 percent

Since year-end 2009, our firm has:

• Been newly created – 10.3 percent
• Retained its ongoing, independent ownership and management structure – 86.6 percent
• Merged with another landscape architecture firm – 0.9 percent
• Merged with a multidisciplinary firm – 2.2 percent

Percent reporting an increase of the following project types over the past five years:

• Design for children – 16.1 percent
• Design for the elderly – 18.9 percent
• Design for the physically disabled – 15.3 percent
• Design for stormwater management – 53.0 percent
• Design incorporating food production – 19.5 percent
• Low-maintenance design – 41.7 percent
• Region-specific design – 28.6 percent

More information: http://www.asla.org/NewsReleaseDetails.aspx?id=36052

ASLA Business Quarterly Survey Chart Year to Year: http://www.asla.org/uploadedImages/LAND/2012_0724_Edition/BQ-Chart.jpg

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 2012 national survey was fielded June 18 through July 13, with 231 primary firm contacts responding.

Press Release

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