Landscape architecture firms are reporting solid if slightly subdued business conditions, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects’ third quarter 2014 Business Quarterly survey. The survey found a rise in billable hours, and a slight dip in inquiries for new work. Hiring plans declined from the last quarter.

Fully 84.17 percent reported stable to significantly higher billable hours, an increase from 82.42 percent last quarter. Some 83.89 percent noted stable to significantly higher inquiries for new work, a slight decrease from 84.7 percent last quarter.

Year to year, 86.10 percent indicated stable to significantly higher third-quarter inquiries for new work, higher than the third quarter of 2013 (85.7 percent). Additionally, 82.38 percent said third-quarter billable hours were about the same or higher, a jump from the third quarter of 2013 (80 percent).

Of all firms with two or more employees, just under half (48.06 percent) said they planned to hire in the fourth quarter of 2014, a dip from the previous quarter (51.75 percent). Some 40.91 percent of firms with 10-49 employees will be hiring a landscape architect, either experienced or entry level, in the fourth quarter of 2014.

The survey included questions related to employee benefits, including family leave and flexible schedules. Some 61.24 percent of firms with two or more employees indicated they offer paid leave for significant family events. Additionally, 26.36 percent said they provide unpaid family leave, and 6.98 percent did not provide any leave.

According to survey respondents, the most common types of family leave provided by firms with two or more employees included maternity leave (55.56 percent), paternity leave (38.89 percent), child illness (38.10 percent) and eldercare (20.63 percent). Some 30.53 percent of firms with two or more employees offer dependent care flexible spending accounts that allow parents to use pretax dollars to pay for childcare, and 59.54 percent do not.

Additionally, firms with two or more employees said they offer professional development and mentoring opportunities (93.08 percent), tuition reimbursements (49.61 percent), and flexible schedules and/or telecommuting (83.08 percent).

Key Survey Highlights:

Compared to the second quarter 2014, your third quarter 2014 billable hours were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 14.69%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 37.85%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 31.64%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 9.60%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 6.21%

Compared to the second quarter 2014, your third quarter 2014 inquiries for new work were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 17.22%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 33.89%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 32.78%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 12.22%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 3.89%

Year to year, compared to the third quarter in 2013, your third quarter 2014 billable hours were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 31.25%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 30.11%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 21.02%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 11.93%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 5.68%

Year to year, compared to the third quarter in 2013, your third quarter 2014 inquiries for new work were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 24.44%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 39.44%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 22.22%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 9.44%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 4.44%

Do you plan on hiring any employees in the fourth quarter of 2014 (multiple answers)?
Yes, we’ll be hiring an experienced landscape architect – 8.62%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an entry-level landscape architect – 12.07%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an intern – 9.77%
Yes, we’ll be hiring support staff – 5.17%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other design/architecture/engineering staff – 10.34%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other staff – 5.75%
No, we’re not currently hiring – 63.22%

Does your firm offer paid family leave for births, deaths, and other significant family events?
Yes, full pay – 36.25%
Yes, partial pay – 15.00%
No, unpaid leave is provided – 27.50%
No leave is provided – 15.00%
Don’t know – 6.25%

My firm offers the following types of family leave (multiple answers):
Maternity leave – 42.94%
Paternity leave – 29.41%
Child illness – 30.00%
Eldercare – 16.47%
N/A – 43.53%

My firm offers dependent care flexible spending accounts that allow parents to use pretax dollars to pay for childcare.
Yes – 25.45%
No – 66.06%
Don’t know – 8.48%

My firm offers professional development and mentoring opportunities.
Yes – 84.76%
No – 13.41%
Don’t know – 1.83%

My firm offers tuition reimbursements.
Yes – 41.51%
No – 52.20%
Don’t know – 6.29%

Employees at my firm have flexible schedules and/or may telecommute.
Yes – 80.25%
No – 19.75%
Don’t know – 0.00%

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 Q3 2014 national survey was fielded October 15 to October 31, 2014, with 188 primary firm contacts responding.