ASLA Business Survey Shows Mixed Signals from Landscape Architecture Firms

Words: Bronzella Cleveland

Billable hours and inquiries for new work slide; hiring plans rise

The economic outlook remains mixed for landscape architecture firms, according to the latest American Society of Landscape Architects’ Business Quarterly survey. During the fourth quarter of 2016, firms reported a dip in billable hours and inquiries for new work, with hiring plans noticeably expanding from the previous quarter.

A comparison of survey results with fourth-quarter numbers from the last four years shows that business conditions are generally improving as firms head into the first quarter of 2017.

The survey found 77.12 percent reported stable to significantly higher billable hours, a drop from the 78.38 percent the previous quarter. This result is above what had been reported for the fourth quarters of 2015 (74.47), 2014 (74.67), 2013 (75.7) and 2012 (66.5).

Some 77.77 percent answered that inquiries for new work were stable to significantly higher during the fourth quarter of 2016, a drop from the 80.33 percent the previous quarter. This result outperforms what had been reported for the fourth quarters of 2015 (71.73), 2014 (76.75), 2013 (74.4) and 2012 (74.2).

Year to year, some 77.26 percent of firms said that billable hours were stable to significantly higher. This result is below what had been reported for the fourth quarters of 2015 (81.66 percent), 2014 (80.17), 2013 (81.5). It is greater than the fourth quarter results from 2012 (72.1).

Year to year, some 81.72 percent of respondents said that fourth quarter inquiries for new work were stable to significantly higher. This result is well above what had been reported for the fourth quarters of 2015 (71.73), 2014 (76.75), 2013 (74.4) and 2012 (74.2).

The majority of firms with two or more employees (57.33 percent) says they plan to hire during the first quarter of 2017, a jump from the third quarter 2016 survey (47.95 percent). This result is well above the numbers reported for 2015 (51.42), 2014 (50.63), 2013 (48.5) and 2012 (37.05). Additionally, some 57.90 percent of firms with more than 100 employees say they will hire either an experienced landscape architect of an entry-level landscape architect.

The survey also asked respondents to provide feedback about business conditions for 2017. Fully 34.04 percent of survey participants believe that business conditions in 2017 will be better than 2016, while 47.34 percent believe conditions will be the same. Some 9.04 percent believe conditions will be worse.

The majority of respondents (47.09 percent) stated they are more optimistic regarding the general business climate in 2017 for the landscape architecture profession. Fully 34.92 percent say their level of optimism remains the same, and 13.23 percent say they are less optimistic.

Key survey highlights can be found on the ASLA’s website.

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 Q4 2016 national survey was fielded Jan. 5 to Jan. 19, 2017, with 190 primary firm contacts responding.

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