Of Interest to Design Professionals: ASLA Survey Results

While surveys have been done regarding various aspects of the sports industry, including number of tennis courts, sales of equipment and participation in sports, and more, there hasn’t been anything recently that addresses the economy as it pertains to design professionals. And since those design professionals are an integral part of ASBA, we were glad to hear about the American Society of Landscape Architects’ Business Quarterly survey, which asks about key points such as billable hours, inquiries and hiring plans.

Unfortunately, there isn’t fabulous news at the outset. 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).

The majority of firms with two or more employees (52.55 percent) say they plan to hire during the second quarter of 2017 – this is a drop from the fourth quarter 2016 survey (57.33 percent). 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.

Key Survey Highlights:

Compared to the fourth quarter 2016, 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%

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%

ASLA will continue to watch for results from ASLA’s surveys on a forward-going basis. In the meantime, design professionals should note that opportunities exist within ASBA, including the Professional Certificate of Distinction Program, as well as the ability to receive continuing education credits at Technical Meeting sessions through ASLA and AIA.

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