SIC 0781

This classification includes establishments engaged in landscape planning and landscape architectural and counseling services.

NAICS Code(s)

541320 (Landscape Architectural Services)

541690 (Other Scientific and Technical Consulting Services)

The service industry of landscape counseling and planning is primarily composed of private landscape architecture firms and self-employed landscape architects, although the federal government also hires landscape architects for projects similar to those done by private firms. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, roughly 26 percent of the 22,000 landscape architects in the early 2000s were self-employed, a rate nearly quadruple that of other industries. Major architectural and engineering firms have also started offering in-house landscape architectural services.

Landscape architects working in this industry are responsible for the design and implementation of land use for areas such as parkways, golf courses, parks, shopping malls, and the areas surrounding private homes and businesses. They plan the location of buildings, roads, and walkways; arrange flowers, shrubs, and trees; and design streets to maximize pedestrian access and safety. Landscape architects are hired by a wide variety of groups including real estate developers, municipalities, private citizens, and private businesses.

Often working in conjunction with architects and engineers, landscape architects combine engineering, horticultural, and design skills to create satisfying and efficient environments. They also work to prevent or solve environmental problems due to construction. Once given a particular assignment, a landscape planner conducts detailed analyses of the existing soil composition, vegetation, water drainage, and slope of the land. Next, initial drawings outlining plans for the site are submitted to the client. If the plans are accepted, the landscape architect makes a formal proposal that may include written reports, sketches, models, photographs, land use studies, and cost analyses. Most landscape architecture firms also supervise contractors during the installation of their plan. Commonly, the landscape architecture firm is present at the opening of the site and available for assistance or consultation through the first six months of existence. Landscape design and build services were the second-largest segment of the lawn and garden industry in 2003, accounting for 25.8 percent of industry revenues.

As an art form, landscape architecture can be traced back to the ancient world. The Renaissance enthusiasm for open space, including ornate villas and outdoor piazzas, influenced the chateaux and urban garden movement in seventeenth century France, which produced such masterpieces as Andre le Notre's gardens at Versailles. In eighteenth century England, landscape planners such as Lancelot "Capability" Brown emphasized naturalistic rather than geometric forms, notably in Brown's remodeling of the grounds of Blenheim Palace.

SIC 0781 Landscape Counseling and Planning

Sir Humphrey Repton, however, reintroduced formal motifs in such public spaces as Victoria Park in London in 1845 and Birkenhead Park in Liverpool in 1847. These projects greatly influenced the development of landscape planning in the United States and Canada. In the 1850s the title "landscape architect" was first used by Frederick Law Olmsted who worked with Calvert Vaux to design New York's Central Park, one of the first urban renewal projects in the country. An advocate of public space as a means of making cities more livable, Olmsted also designed the grounds of the U.S. Capitol in the 1879s and was instrumental in developing numerous public parks around the country.

In 1899 the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) was formed by Olmsted's followers. By the turn of the twenty-first century, the ASLA had approximately 12,000 members. Though the profession grew slowly during the first half of the twentieth century, with landscape architects earning modest salaries, the profession experienced significant growth during the 1980s and 1990s. By 2003, almost 60 universities and colleges in the United States offered a total of 75 accredited baccalaureate and post-graduate programs in landscape architecture, and commissions for landscaping outnumbered the professionals available to execute them.

For many years the design work involved in landscape planning was done by hand at drawing boards but, in the early 2000s, an increasing number of landscape architects were using computer aided design (CAD) systems to assist them in creating designs. Advances in global positioning systems and computerized Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have benefited landscape architects who work on large-scale projects such as land planning, recreation, campuses, and greenways. Video simulation, a technological tool that helps clients visualize a proposed site plan, is also increasingly used.

The demand for landscape counseling services has a direct correlation to economic conditions relative to private construction rates, building costs, interest rates, growth of business and industry, and government funding of parks and other outdoor facilities. Although only about a quarter of their work is residential, landscape architects have experienced increased opportunities in the residential market due to its robust growth through the early 2000s. Despite a weak U.S. economy during those years, record low interest rates fueled growth in real estate. In fact the 1.085 million homes sold in 2003 set an industry record as interest rates hovered at rates not seen since the 1950s. At the same time, prices for private residential commissions have increased from a high of about a quarter of a million dollars to commissions of $500,000 or more. Remodeling is also a strong factor in landscape commissions as more homeowners and businesses are becoming aware that landscaping can provide a 100 to 200 percent return, with property value increases between 14 and 25 percent.

A significant opportunity for landscape architects throughout the early 2000s will be in environmental design and public projects. Water quality issues in particular will demand the profession's specialized skills, according to some analysts, as landscape architects will become major players across the nation in compliance with waste disposal procedures, water quality protection, and land preservation. In addition, landscape architects will likely displace engineers as leaders on such projects as planned communities, transportation corridors, and urban planning. Federal initiatives—such as the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Sustainable Development Challenge Grant (SDCG) Program, which provides seed money to encourage local projects that use sustainable development strategies to address serious environmental problems—will also greatly expand opportunities for landscape architects. In addition, passage of TEA-21, which authorizes federal funding for transportation projects, will offer significant possibilities for landscape architects through the early 2000s. Some landscape architects have even started using their skills to improve indoor environments, which further expands the industry's already broad scope.

Industry leaders in this field in 2004 included Calabasas, California-based ValleyCrest Companies, formerly known as Environmental Industries, Inc., which acquired TruGreen LandCare in 2001 to broaden its reach in the Northeast and Midwest; SWA Group, headquartered in Sausalito, California; Environmental Earth-scapes Inc. of Tucson, Arizona; and Green Thumb Enterprises Inc., based in Chantilly, Virginia. ValleyCrest, which has designed such major projects as the Las Vegas Strip beautification project and the grounds for the Getty Center in Los Angeles, posted 2003 sales of $620 million, a 2.5 percent increase from the prior year. The company is the nation's largest commercial landscaping business and specializes in landscape construction and maintenance, lawn care, and nursery work in addition to landscape consulting and planning. ValleyCrest's major competitors lagged far behind with sales between $10 and $15 million.

Landscape architects must study engineering and graduate from an accredited program in their field. They must then complete a two-year apprenticeship program and pass a rigorous three-day examination to obtain state licensing. A total of 46 states require landscape architects to be either licensed or registered. Apprentice landscape architects can earn between $45 and $75 an hour, with licensed principals earning from $90 to $200 per hour and annual salaries of between $50,000 and $150,000. In the early 2000s, the median salary for landscape architects was $43,540. Those employed by the federal government earned $62,824 on average. Landscape designers, who do not have to graduate from any program or pass any licensing tests, perform many of the same tasks as landscape architects, such as the design of hardscaping with walls and walkways, but average about $50 per hour. Though the majority of landscape architects remain in private firms, an increasing number are migrating to large-scale design firms that offer landscape planning as one of a range of diversified services. The employment outlook for landscape architects is favorable through 2010, according to the 2002-03 Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Further Reading

American Society of Landscape Architects. "Landscape Architecture: Defining the Profession," 2003. Available from .

Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2002-03 Edition. Washington, DC:2003. Available from .

"Housing Dips, Economists Trip." Landscape Online, 2004. Available from .

Hoover's Company Capsules. "ValleyCrest Companies," 2004. Available from .

"State of the Industry 2003." Lawn & Landscape, October 2003.

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