Weak Business Conditions Continue to Affect Landscape Architecture Firms

New business inquiries drop, billable hours rise slightly.

Business activity softened for the landscape architecture profession during the second three months of 2012. However, the level of billable hours grew slightly, according to the American Society of Landscape Architecture (ASLA) Business Quarterly survey.

Quarter to quarter, Q2 2012 saw 73.4% of firms reporting stable or improved billable hours, and 71.2% reported stable or improved inquiries for new work.

Comparing to a year ago, though, the results aren’t as favorable. Year to year, 74.3% indicated lower Q2 2012 levels in new business inquiries; a slight decrease from Q2 2011 (75.7%). They also reported a decline in billable hours (69.3%), compared to the 73.8% reported in the second quarter of last year.

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

“The survey reflects the overall uncertain conditions that continue to cast a long shadow on our economy,” says 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%) 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%), low-maintenance design (41.7%), and region-specific design (28.6%).