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The housing market slowdown hasn't affected the majority of landscape architects' business, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).

"Most of our landscape architecture members are still quite busy and, in fact, using this time to catch up on the major backload of work," says spokesperson Jim Lapides of ASLA.

Results of a survey by ASLA found that more than six in 10 firms reported steady or increased work, and nearly four in 10 firms planned to hire in the upcoming quarter. The survey gathered information from 319 firms and compared responses on key statistics including billable hours, inquiries, and hiring plans.

"In 2006 we had this real estate slow down. 2007 was still slow but the [landscape architects] are still very busy and part of that is reflected in the fact that about four in ten firms are still looking to hire in the upcoming quarter," says Lapides.

According to a news release from ASLA, 59 percent of respondents described their billable hours as either "well above average" (six percent), "slightly above average" (25 percent), or "average" (27 percent). Meanwhile, 30 percent described their hours as "slightly below average," and 10 percent said their hours are "well below average." When asked to compare the fourth quarter of 2007 with the fourth quarter of 2006, 61 percent said their hours were either "higher" (31 percent) or "about the same" (30 percent); 36 percent said that their hours were "lower."

So what types of projects are consumers having landscape architects do? Lapides says that the green-building movement that is becoming increasingly popular for homes is moving into the great outdoors. He says there is a growing trend to use the entire land space not just the structure.

"People are beginning to realize the actual entire site has just as much impact on energy usage, environmental impact, and sustainability as the indoors," says Lapides.

The desire to develop beyond the structure of the home is influenced by many factors including wanting more usable space, having an outdoor environment that is both useful and energy-efficient, and choosing to stay put. So instead of moving, homeowners are opting to develop their homes and exteriors so that they fully meet their needs.

"Homeowners are reconnecting with their outdoor space, often in creative and imaginative ways," says Perry Howard, FASLA, President of ASLA. "It's no surprise that people want to take elements that work so well inside their home and recreate them outside."

Among the most-requested item to have built is the outdoor great room. Additionally, homeowners and commercial clients are seeking ways to make their landscape more green.

"More and more landscape architects see a demand for incorporating and quantifying sustainable design -- especially on the commercial side," says Perry. He adds that, "This is one reason we are creating the Sustainable Sites Initiative, which will give clients and designers the tools and best practices for designing energy-efficient, environmentally friendly landscapes." The project, Sustainable Sites, is a partnership between ASLA, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and the U.S. Botanic Garden. Its goal is to create a green-rating system for sustainable landscape design in all types of projects.

The supply for landscape architects is at this point still not meeting the demand. ASLA says the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of landscape architects must grow by 16 percent by 2016 in order to meet growing demand for services. Efforts are being made by industry professionals to reach out to school-aged children in hopes of promoting careers in landscape architecture.

National Landscape Architecture month is in April. Its theme is "Discover Careers in Landscape Architecture."

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