Landscape architecture firms experienced some momentum during the first quarter of 2016, according to the latest American Society of Landscape Architects’ Business Quarterly survey. Both billings and inquiries for new work jumped, while plans to hire dropped slightly from the previous quarter.

A comparison of this survey with first-quarter results from the last four years shows that firms are building on the growth of the last couple of years. Additionally, firms with two or more employees are placing high value on improving gender diversity, and the vast majority include women on senior management teams.

The survey found that 80.76 percent reported stable to significantly higher billable hours, a notable jump from the 74.47 percent the previous quarter. This result is a bit lower than what had been reported for the first quarter of 2015 (82.02 percent), but much higher than what had been reported during the first quarters of 2012 (71.3 percent), 2013 (76.1 percent) and 2014 (72.2 percent).

Some 80.43 percent stated that inquiries for new work were stable to significantly higher, another leap from the 71.73 percent the previous quarter. This result is a drop from what had been reported for the first quarters of 2013 (85.5 percent) and 2015 (85.34 percent). It is about the same as reported billable hours for the first quarter of 2014 (80.2 percent), and much higher than what had been reported for the first quarter of 2012 (76.2 percent).

Year to year, some 75.66 percent of firms said that billable hours were stable to significantly higher. This result is a drop from the 80.52 percent reported for the first quarter of 2015. It is higher than what had been reported for the first quarters of 2012 (71.3 percent), 2013 (76.1 percent) and 2014 (76 percent).

Year to year, some 81.05 percent of respondents said that first quarter inquiries for new work were stable to significantly higher. This result is within the range of what had been reported for the first quarters of 2015 (83.24 percent) and 2014 (83.4 percent). It is higher than what had been reported for the first quarters of 2012 (76.2 percent) and 2013 (59.5 percent).

The majority of firms with two or more employees (59.44 percent) say they plan to hire during the second quarter of 2016, a slight drop from the previous quarter (61.54 percent), but still far higher than what had been recorded for 2012 (28.2 percent), 2013 (54.5 percent) and 2014 (49.4 percent). Some 54.84 percent of firms with 10 to 49 employees say they will hire either an experienced landscape architect or an entry-level landscape architect.

The survey also asked respondents about their firms’ strategies and tactics for gender diversity.

Some 53.57 percent of firms with two or more employees say that gender diversity is an important issue for them.

Firms with two or more employees say they have undertaken the following measures to promote gender diversity: provide flexible working conditions and/or locations (67.83 percent), equal pay for equal work (65.73 percent), and family-friendly programs or policies (56.64 percent).

Some 80.99 percent of firms with two or more employees say they include women on senior leadership teams.

Key Survey Highlights:

Compared to the fourth quarter 2015, your first quarter 2016 billable hours were (all firms):
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 15.51%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 33.16%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 32.09%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 10.16%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 9.09%

Compared to the fourth quarter 2015, your first quarter 2016 inquiries for new work were (all firms):
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 15.87%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 38.10%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 26.46%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 13.23%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 6.35%

Year to year, compared to the first quarter in 2015, your first quarter 2016 billable hours were (all firms):
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 15.34%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 37.57%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 22.75%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 14.81%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 9.52%

Year to year, compared to the first quarter in 2015, your first quarter 2016 inquiries for new work were (all firms):
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 17.37%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 33.68%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 30.0%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 12.11%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 6.84%

Do you plan on hiring any employees in the second quarter of 2016 (multiple answers filtered for firms with two or more employees)?
Yes, we’ll be hiring an experienced landscape architect – 13.29%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an entry-level landscape architect – 25.87%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an intern – 23.78%
Yes, we’ll be hiring support staff – 6.29%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other design/architecture/engineering staff – 15.38%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other staff – 9.79%
No, we’re not currently hiring – 46.56%

Gender diversity is an important strategic issue for my firm (filtered for firms with two or more employees):
Yes – 53.57%
No – 33.57%
Not sure – 12.86%

My firm has undertaken the following measures to promote gender diversity (multiple answers filtered for firms with two or more employees):
Provide flexible working conditions and/or locations – 67.83%
Equal pay for equal work – 65.73%
Provide family-friendly programs or policies – 56.64%
Encourage female networking and mentoring – 32.87%
No specific measures – 21.68%
Gender-specific hiring goals and programs – 7.69%

My firm includes women on its senior leadership teams (filtered for firms with two or more employees):
Yes – 80.99%
No – 17.61%
Not sure – 1.41%