Business Conditions for Landscape Architecture Firms Retreat, but Survey Finds Some Optimism About 2012

Thu Feb 16, 2012 7:02am EST

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Business Conditions for Landscape Architecture Firms Retreat, but Survey Finds Some Optimism About 2012

Western firms report slowest progress

Business activity for landscape architects continued to recede in fourth quarter 2011, but longer term, the profession is relatively optimistic about 2012.

Some 27.8 percent of respondents to the American Society of Landscape Architects’ fourth quarter Business Quarterly survey reported billable hours as slightly (plus 5 to 10 percent) or significantly (10 percent-plus) higher in fourth quarter when compared to the previous quarter. Another 34.8 reported billable hours as about the same (plus or minus 5 percent). This is down from the previous quarter, which showed 32.4 percent as slightly or significantly improved and 33 percent as stable.

Inquiries, too, showed a retreat, with quarter-to-quarter inquiries slightly or significantly improved for 31.9 percent of respondents compared to 35.7 percent in the previous quarter. Those reporting inquiries as stable remained unchanged at 33.8 percent.

Comparing fourth quarter 2011 to fourth quarter 2010, the picture improves slightly. Some 40.2 percent of firms reported improved billings, and 23.4 reported billable hours as about the same. Inquiries were 40.3 percent slightly to significantly improved, and another 28.6 percent reported inquiries as stable. In the third quarter, 39 percent reported improvement and 21.3 reported stability year-over-year when comparing billable hours; 39.1 reported improvement and 27.7 percent reported stability in inquiries.

A majority of landscape architecture firms, 75.3 percent, told the ASLA Business Quarterly survey for Q4 2011 that they do not expect to hire during the first quarter of 2012. While the number was high, it too is an improvement on the third quarter, when 81.3 percent said they were not hiring.

Asked about business conditions for the full year of 2012, 45.6 percent of respondents said they expected them to remain the same, but 43.1 percent said they expected conditions to improve. Only 11.2 percent expected conditions to decline. Concerning employment, a majority of 54.7 percent said they expected prospects to remain the same, while 34.3 percent said they expected prospects to improve. A minority of 11 percent said they expected prospects to worsen.

“Landscape architecture firms continue to be mired in the sluggish economy, and this is particularly true when it comes to hiring,” said ASLA Executive Vice President and CEO Nancy Somerville. “The year ahead, however, seems to hold some hope for firms that things may begin to move forward,” she said.

Regional Breakdowns

The West consistently ranked lowest in reporting improved billable hours and inquiries quarter-to-quarter and year-to-year. They also ranked highest in predicting improved employment and business conditions in 2012. The Midwest showed the strongest performance in three of the four measures, showing lonely a lower number in the quarter-to-quarter inquiries. Surprisingly, Midwest firms also were among the least optimistic when assessing the business outlook for 2012.

 
  Northeast   Midwest   South   West
CT, ME, MA, IL, IN, MI, DC, DE, FL, AZ, CO, ID,
NH, RI, VT, OH, WI, IA, GA, MD, NC, NM, MT, UT,
NJ, NY, PA KS, MN, MO, SC, VA, WV, NV, WY, AK,
NE, SD, ND AL, KY, MS, CA, HI, OR,
TN, AR, LA, WA
            OK, TX    
3Q-to-4Q2011 billings somewhat or significantly improved   27.5   31.9   31.5   20.5
3Q-to-4Q2011 inquiries somewhat or significantly improved   34.5   33.8   35.4   25.4
4Q2010-to-4Q2011 billings somewhat or significantly improved   40.2   58.3   34.3   31.5
4Q2010-to-4Q2011 inquiries somewhat or significantly improved   46.0   48.6   38.6   33.1
Hiring will improve in 2012   34.5   33.8   32.7   36.4
Business conditions will improve in 2012   43.7   37.8   44.9   45.4
 

About the Survey

The ASLA Quarterly Business survey asks about quarterly benchmarks on key statistics including billable hours, inquiries from prospective clients and hiring plans. The Q4 2011 national survey was completed on February 1, 2012 with 437 respondents.

About ASLA

Founded in 1899, ASLA is the national professional association for landscape architects, representing more than 15,000 members in 48 professional chapters and 68 student chapters. The Society's mission is to lead, to educate and to participate in the careful stewardship, wise planning and artful design of our cultural and natural environments. Members of the Society use their “ASLA” suffix after their names to denote membership and their commitment to the highest ethical standards of the profession. Learn more about landscape architecture online at www.asla.org.

American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA)
Michael Cowden, PR & Communications Coordinator, 202.216.2345
mcowden@asla.org