Obstacles Facing Our Profession?

This topic contains 1 reply, has 11 voices, and was last updated by  Adam Quear 10 years, 9 months ago.

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  • #177340

    Andrew Spiering
    Participant

    A member wrote me with a big question: What are the common problems or obstacles facing our profession, and, how can work together to solve them as an international community?

    Your thoughts please…

    #177351

    Adam Quear
    Participant

    I personally feel that one of our biggest problems across the globe, is our lack of organization and communication between countries on how to solve simple and elaborate problems. I however do not know how to go about fixing a global problem such as this.

    Another problem I see facing our profession, is the realization that the climates are changing drastically and everything in the environment is successfully aiding the the problem. I also see “in my little town and surrounding areas” that the none educated “landscapers” are not in any way helping out our situation, by creating unorganized collaborations they call landscape designs, by planting non-native plants that in the long run will hurt rather than help the climate and environment.

    I hope these are valid points that everyone can agree on.

    #177350

    Eric Galvin
    Participant

    Public recognition of what we do. Too many people think of us as landscape designers or even landscape contractors. Our work is very broad in its definition and people have trouble knowing when a landscape architect should be the lead on a project or how they can be involved.

    #177349

    Matt Landis
    Participant

    All some very good points….and I agree that both architects and engineers do feel that they can do our jobs…which they “can”…just usually not as well.

    To expand upon Adam’s comment regarding lack of organization…something else that I feel plagues our profession is pay scale compared to engineers and other professions outside of design. Wages out of school are sometimes even hard to live on. Not to mention that some interns work for free. Often people that are higher up in firms make a great deal of money…but those with 0-5 years of experience typically don’t break the bank.

    I realize that everyone doesn’t do this job to make a lot of money. Money aside, it is a very fulfilling job most of the time. That said, there are definitely ways to make money in our profession, but it usually doesn’t involve private design firms or working for governmental agencies. Working directly with land owners or developers as an owner’s representative can prove to be fruitful in terms of compensation, but the lack of design in this capacity doesn’t always make a “designer” happy.

    With as much education that is required for our profession, it is somewhat surprising when you compare our payscales to that of business professions which often require less education and experience. Someone with a 4 year finance or management degree and 5 years experience can earn drastically more than someone with an MLA and 10 years of experience.

    Again…it isn’t all about the money, but I just feel that compensation is definitely lacking in our profession. I also don’t have an answer about what should be done….(if anything) so I don’t know if any of this is helpful. I guess one thing we could do is hel get the word out to stop doing “free” internships…and stop accepting low-paying jobs with big name firms. If the people doing the hiring can’t get people to accept low offers…they will eventually have to increase the bottom line.

    Do some research on ASLA regarding average slararies…and incorporate cost of living into offers. Someone making the “average” ASLA salary in NC will do much better than someone making the “average” salary in NYC. However…from what I have seen…pay doesn’t go up that much in the big cities. Don’t be affraid to counter your offer with some good data to back you up.

    #177348

    nca
    Participant

    Matt Landis said:

    All some very good points….and I agree that both architects and engineers do feel that they can do our jobs…which they “can”…just usually not as well.

    To expand upon Adam’s comment regarding lack of organization…something else that I feel plagues our profession is pay scale compared to engineers and other professions outside of design. Wages out of school are sometimes even hard to live on. Not to mention that some interns work for free. Often people that are higher up in firms make a great deal of money…but those with 0-5 years of experience typically don’t break the bank.

    I realize that everyone doesn’t do this job to make a lot of money. Money aside, it is a very fulfilling job most of the time. That said, there are definitely ways to make money in our profession, but it usually doesn’t involve private design firms or working for governmental agencies. Working directly with land owners or developers as an owner’s representative can prove to be fruitful in terms of compensation, but the lack of design in this capacity doesn’t always make a “designer” happy.

    With as much education that is required for our profession, it is somewhat surprising when you compare our payscales to that of business professions which often require less education and experience. Someone with a 4 year finance or management degree and 5 years experience can earn drastically more than someone with an MLA and 10 years of experience.

    Again…it isn’t all about the money, but I just feel that compensation is definitely lacking in our profession. I also don’t have an answer about what should be done….(if anything) so I don’t know if any of this is helpful. I guess one thing we could do is hel get the word out to stop doing “free” internships…and stop accepting low-paying jobs with big name firms. If the people doing the hiring can’t get people to accept low offers…they will eventually have to increase the bottom line.

    Do some research on ASLA regarding average slararies…and incorporate cost of living into offers. Someone making the “average” ASLA salary in NC will do much better than someone making the “average” salary in NYC. However…from what I have seen…pay doesn’t go up that much in the big cities. Don’t be affraid to counter your offer with some good data to back you up.

    Thanks Matt,

    I completely agree regarding payscale in terms of entry or junior level persons. In my limited experience and exposure outside of school, I’ve seen several relatively close friends take low-ball offers at top-tier firms just for the resume-builder. I’m guilty already of the same thing, having taken internships at several large offices in the past two summers. This summer I opted for a very small local office for a competitive wage and a 5-mile bike-commute. Surprisingly, this job is perhaps more challenging than the big-name firms I’ve interned for in the past. A smaller office equals more responsibility and accountability, at least in my case. In other words, they almost always know whether you’re actually there or not (Not that I didn’t appreciate or get anything positive from the other GREAT experiences I was fortunate to have had.)

    I can also sympathize, not empathize, with the comment about “landscapers” possibly having a negative impact on accredited landscape architects and professional designers. Having been a landscaper for several years prior to attending the LA program at CSU I can see where free designs and lack-of-self-worth have degraded everything associated with the American landscape professions, not to mention HGTV with their silly shows. Unfortunately, I think the answer to this problem may be stricter governmental regulation. How can we raise the level of standards in landscape architecture/design, especially in the residential market? Listening to Matt Landis’ comments I might go as far as to say we may have to learn to do the architects and the engineers jobs as well.

    The more I type the more confused I become…

    #177347

    Ryland Fox
    Participant

    This is maybe just a personal one but I think that one of the problems we have as a profession currently is the lack of any really “new” design. I never really see anything that has, as Jencks (I think?) put it: “the shock of the new”. Other design professions seem to test boundaries a lot more, try new things. Look at Beijing, we are constantly bombarded with pictures of the Bird’s Nest, Swimming Cube, Opera House, Koolhaa’s TV building etc., they are paraded as new design that incorporates emerging technologies and different ways of thinking. But I would suggest that if one sees the accompanying landscapes there would be nothing to distinguish them, or make them stand out. Sure they might have some detailing to make them appear contemporary and new but the main layouts and designs are almost unchanged from 50 years ago. Obviously part of this can be attributed to the client but we need to find ways of trying new things and incorporating new ideas.

    #177346

    Lizelle Wolmarans
    Participant

    I agree with Matt Landis. As someone from South Africa who also worked for 2 years in the UK, I can really say that we (Landscape Architects) do not get paid what we should and employers love to “use” people as cheap labour and try and make you beleive that you are getting more out of the experience, so you should be happy with what you get.

    Although it can be a fulfilling career, we should not forget the fact that it is a job, that we studied long and hard for it and that we deserve to be compensated. We have families to support, dreams to fulfill and lives to live.

    Matt Landis said:

    To expand upon Adam’s comment regarding lack of organization…something else that I feel plagues our profession is pay scale compared to engineers and other professions outside of design. Wages out of school are sometimes even hard to live on. Not to mention that some interns work for free. Often people that are higher up in firms make a great deal of money…but those with 0-5 years of experience typically don’t break the bank.

    I realize that everyone doesn’t do this job to make a lot of money. Money aside, it is a very fulfilling job most of the time. That said, there are definitely ways to make money in our profession, but it usually doesn’t involve private design firms or working for governmental agencies. Working directly with land owners or developers as an owner’s representative can prove to be fruitful in terms of compensation, but the lack of design in this capacity doesn’t always make a “designer” happy.

    With as much education that is required for our profession, it is somewhat surprising when you compare our payscales to that of business professions which often require less education and experience. Someone with a 4 year finance or management degree and 5 years experience can earn drastically more than someone with an MLA and 10 years of experience.

    Again…it isn’t all about the money, but I just feel that compensation is definitely lacking in our profession. I also don’t have an answer about what should be done….(if anything) so I don’t know if any of this is helpful. I guess one thing we could do is hel get the word out to stop doing “free” internships…and stop accepting low-paying jobs with big name firms. If the people doing the hiring can’t get people to accept low offers…they will eventually have to increase the bottom line.

    Do some research on ASLA regarding average slararies…and incorporate cost of living into offers. Someone making the “average” ASLA salary in NC will do much better than someone making the “average” salary in NYC. However…from what I have seen…pay doesn’t go up that much in the big cities. Don’t be affraid to counter your offer with some good data to back you up.

    #177345

    Kevin J. Gaughan
    Participant

    I think one problem that landscape architects can often have is balancing their commitment to their client with their commitment to the environment. I have seen a lot of projects where in the schematic design phase of a project the design team is very excited about all these great things that they are going to do on the site regarding the environment (ie. native plants, cisterns, bio-retention, wind power, etc…) However, when the projects go through the design development phase, i feel like these are always the first things to be stripped away (mostly because rarely are these the things included in the clients original program and original budget).

    What is even worse is when there are clients that want to do something that is in direct opposition to what we as landscape architects have learned and believe in and yet we do it because we do not want to lose the client and you know they will not change their mind.

    Here is an example:
    You have a client (with lots of money) that wants to develop on a site that has many restrictions on it. The client has a pretty rigorous program and one of his requirements for the site is that he wants his buildings to be on the one part of the site that has a mature forest on it (due to the restrictions it is either there or one other location on the site that would not have such great views…but would be able to leave all the forest in tact). Although you try to convince him that it would be best to leave the mature forest in place he has made up is mind that he wants his development there. What do you do? Do you not do the job full knowing that some other less moral landscape architect will be right behind willing to do for the client as long as the bills are paid on time? Or do you do what you know is wrong, in order to keep the job in hopes that you might be able to help do other things on the project that are more sustainable than if you lost the project to the less moral landscape architect (and we all know these people exist…i doubt you will find them on l8l though).

    This is something I struggle with…but do not know what the solution is besides getting more involved in our local and regional environmental legislation so that we have the law to back us up. Unfortunately, for the most part i find that landscape architects do not get involved enough in politics to really make the difference that we need to.

    #177344

    Les Ballard
    Participant

    (I know I go on here but a full moon approaches and the subject got my goat. So this feeds my goat, OK? – LOL)

    Folk need to be seen to be green these days. Stop a developer chopping down a couple of mature trees, by slapping a Tree Preservation Order on them and, when the swearing stops, the change of plans and reduced living unit numbers will suddenly be made up for, with a few other tweaks from the architect and offering homes – or whatever – with “mature trees” or as being in a “sylvan setting”, that would not have been there had the developer prevailed. I complained to one who called his gated development the plural of a tree specie and had planted only one outside the gates. A phone call ensured a second tree followed though both may have been a park or garden variety. Still, I doubt if anyone has planted an urban or park tree of purely wild stock for a long time. LAs can arrange for a nursery area on larger sites to grow new plants from local stock (and transplant/store anything that can be translocated easily) and be properly sited near the end of the project as landscapers move in to finish off. This saves a lot of carbon, keeps money in house and takes account of any local specie variety – salt or bug tolerant maybe – preserving it. Excess can be sold at neighbourhood tree planting/bbq/viewing days and the like.

    The history of the site may be of interest locally and it can be important to satisfy official archeological parties/indiginous peoples’ and wildlife groups. Developers are not really interested in revealing any plan until it is too late to moan, if at all possible and the LA may want to mention possible archeological interest at the site to local authorities and, similarly, suggest a wildlife survey to a local group. If some rare thing is found, there are ways to deal with it quickly and simply, as a rule, yet failing to consider such aspects hits everyone’s pocket save for the LA who should then be able to charge the developer a fee for liaison. The LA is like a broker, in effect, sitting on a fence to best represent and save the client from himself and, at the same time, being a mouthpiece for the land he or she intends to best use. Afterwards, when the developer’s name is hailed, if it is then a good one, he will not feel disposed to try and poison the LAs business well.

    Anyone can get a TPO or similar protection (including any acquaintance of the LA) and, certainly, the developer will not want the local hippy moonbeam types living in the branches of the example forest. They lock on to strongpoints, hide and generally cost a fortune to police, expel and protect against – and they will ensure it all causes nasty publicity. It is far better to do the job right, consult and inform locals on works with published bulletins. I would not dream of suggesting any kind of apparent blackmail or extortion by LAs directly but, they are like gardeners and clients should always be kind to their gardener who can blight, as well as bless, the land they are charged with improving and maintaining, just with a handful of seeds of an unwanted specie!

    Luv n Lite

    Les Ballard

    #177343

    nca
    Participant

    On the topic of money, again…

    Thinking about how there seems to be a clear dichotomy between those at the top and the “worker bees.”…Wouldn’t it make sense for a firm to share profit earlier with the intent to maintain employees. Hypothetically speaking, if someone makes 40k/year to start and stays at between 40-55k for their first 8 years, then after perhaps becoming a senior level staffer reaches the next plateau of say 70-85k wouldn’t that person be likely to achieve the same financial goals starting higher with pay increasing more gradually as experience increases, rather than what seams like a number of quantum leaps?

    I know thats pretty confusing, tough to type the picture in my head right now..It’s like a series of plateaus or tiers. On a more gradated system one would start higher and retire or reach principal or presideant at a slightly lower salary, though the benefits that person has saved has allowed them to reserve the same amount of capital by retirement…hmmm..

    No ones going to understand this…nevermind..

    -n

    #177342

    Ony Selokarang
    Participant

    My work experience in Jakarta & Maldives shows that no landscape architects society that supports our profession strongly. Even in Maldives there’s no landscape architects society. Maldives should have landscape architects society because it has more than 1000 tiny islands, some of them become resorts, some of them left as inhabitant island, & other purpose such as airport & recycle (waste management?) island. Usually, the landscape architects come from other country as consultant & handover to the resort once they finished the project. In hotel industry, landscape maintenance not as their priority compare to engineering as non revenue department. The salary & benefit are different. They put engineering employee as a skill person required but for landscape is only labor work.
    The world organization such as IFLA should more active to promote our profession around the world so we can stand at the same level as other profession in all industry as well as the landscape architects who involve during project until the installment successfully completed.

    #177341

    Jim Klimes
    Participant

    henry cohen said:

    I believe the biggest problem is getting recognition from architects and engineers. Engineers feel threatened by us, they feel that we are imposing on their territory and architects just want us to put the parsley around the pig.
    Once both of those disciplines come to accept and appreciate what we are capable of, we’ll be taking large steps forward.

    There is a lot of truth to this statement Henry. I’ve found that you have to build on a relationship first (project relationship that is). In project management where a strong team is often required I have been able to break down some of these barriers. It’s very much a case of give and take and being patient.

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