Should the ASLA focus on employment for LAs?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION Should the ASLA focus on employment for LAs?

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    George McNair


    Many landscape architects are struggling for work, and it’s time the ASLA change its focus to become a political powerhouse for us. If not, then we should begin a new organization callled Green America by Registered Landscape Architects or GARLA. All annual dues will be based on income level and it will be a green machine focusing on the following:


    Should the GALA focus on the following:

    1. Push for RLAs in charge of federal and state projects encompassing large tracks of land so they can become official green projects.

    2. Install state and federal laws requiring RLAs to be included on all private projects over 30,000 sf,

    3. Get practice acts installed in all state governments.

    4. All federal and state construction jobs with landscape spaces over 30,000 sf require a RLA.

    5. Get federal funding with RLAs in charge of green projects to produce biofuels, solar electricity, nuclear…etc

    6, TV adds informing the public what LAs do.

    7. Military bases and other govt. facilities will be layed out by RLAs


    Examples: Green Communities provides grants, financing, tax-credit equity, and technical assistance to developers who meet the criteria for affordable housing that promotes health, conserves energy and natural resources, and provides easy access to jobs, schools and services.

    (require LAs to be in charge)

    Zach Watson

    That is not ASLA’s job nor it shouldn’t be.  If we as a profession will loose more credibility if we are approaching the government and demanding that they provide us jobs.  If we can not do our work to a level that is enticing for developers/builders to come to us with their project, and they believe that another profession can do our work better than we can then we don’t deserve to have a seat at the table.  It is not ASLA’s or the Government’s fault if we don’t know how to market ourselves, that is a you problem and no amount of effort demanding a jobs is going to change that you problem.

    George McNair


    Zach, you are entitled to your opinion but you missed the point. Yes, we do all that you suggest, but we add more layers of education and marketing of the LA profession. All sucessful industries lobby the political system for their causes. Lke it or not, we are competing with landscape contractors, engineers, architects, and plannners for a larger part in our economic system. Federal and state laws can help direct projects to private industry sectors such as ours. For example, federal laws can require all military bases will have a RLA as project leaders until the project is completed. We, in my opinion, are the most qualified for this type of project which ensures the saftey of our troops and the best use of our money.  


    Can you tell us what the ASLA has done in these areas?




    Jason T. Radice

    Ummmm, the ASLA does in deed have lobbyists, and does indeed lobby! They even have a Lobby Day where they ask LAs from around the country to come to DC and meet with their representatives to promote LA.


    Many states also lobby their State Houses (I know mine does) and have events. Its not as easy as just saying “we’re going to do this now.” Remember, other professions have lobbies and deep pockets, namely PEs and Architects, both are fighitng for the same thing ASLA is. Many municipalites also require just what you ask, that projects of certain sizes have an LA stamp drawings. What you are seeking is more on a local level than even national or state.

    The GSA, which controls federal buildings, has LAs on staff, and they do hire outside LA firms for their projects. The Army Corp, and the Dept.of the Navy, which both design bases, also have staff LAs and Planners to design new bases and redesign old ones ( I know a few of them). Many federal projects also require that an LA firm is on the design team at the time of bid submission.


    I would also stay away from ever using the “green” moniker, as in some circles, it has VERY negative connotations (private developers), let alone us as a profession being accused of greenwashing. It also pigeon-holes much of the rest of the industry outside of the specialty of ‘greening.’ Not all of us do ecological restorations, you know. We also canno rely on the EPA, which will likely have its budget gutted very soon. 


    Eric Gilbey

    George, Jason is right, and if you were watching in the last few weeks, you would have seen ASLA staff and officers pleading with its members and non members to reach out to their lawmakers (aside from the lobbying they were also doing feverishly) to include language that made projects like green infrastructure and safe routes to school and transportation enhancements, and the list goes on. All of these aspects of advocacy paid off as the federal amendments being considered were passed and actions like this help to provide projects which in turn brings work to us…and the more work brought to us causes firms to need to hire to keep up with the increase in work. Often times it comes down to the constituents, like you and I to reach out to our legislators because they know you are the ones who elect them…not the ASLA staff. So hearing you say that ASLA needs to become a political powerhouse goes both ways…they already have. Hearing your passion makes me want to know what you are doing to approach your legislators to do the same…because we need to know how you too have been working to see this happen, and by letting us know, you will inspire others to do the same. As Jason mentioned, Advocacy Day, is May 10th…if you have made plans to attend, I look forward to meeting you there…if not, please do what you can from where you are and approach your federal, state and local lawmakers and tell them why these laws that make opportunities for work for us are crucial to our profession and how we make a difference for the communities in which we work and live.

    George McNair

    It is really great to hear from you and Jason. It’s encouraging to hear some progress is being made on the political front by the ASLA. Do you have budget figures that specifies the money spent on political lobbying and adds that define what landscape architects do?   

    As far as my contribution, Steve Potter and I initiated the Landscape Architect title act in Oregon years ago. Starting about 5 years ago, my effort is to define what a LA is and how we operate by radio, TV,  and fliers. T he public is then invited to free seminars that helps answer their questions and needs. Each seminar focuses on a particular topic. This discussion is also a step in the right direction. In a few weeks I may launch a political campaign and run for the Oregon House of Representitives.

    If LAs acted in a coordinted political manner directed by a central core, then more progress can be made. Email campaigns can work. How has the ASLA motivated its members to lobby for laws and politicians who can forward our agenda? 


    “I would also stay away from ever using the “green” moniker, as in some circles, it has VERY negative connotations (private developers), let alone us as a profession being accused of greenwashing.”  Really sad to hear……..greenwashing implies cute landscaping with no function and just another cost. This will be changing since America is headed for green…………this is our boat. Green sells homes and shopping centers and is good for the land and waters.  Good design by LAs does not have to run up the cost. Roof gardens, trees used to cool homes, urban garden plots, bioswales, biofuels, greenways and a host of other green concepts are happening wether developers like it or not. This is the wave we need to catch………………..





    Eric Gilbey

    George, That is fantastic work that you have been involved with, especially the foundation you have established and the continued work in educating the legislators and public…the effort to become a part of the legislative effort is tremendous too. The details on ASLA’s budget is not known to me, but I do know that they have added (well over a year ago…maybe going on 2 years) a staff member to help the chapters in their public relations/awareness beyond the staff member they already had helping the membership at large in our efforts to reach the public, they added the chapter oriented staff member to provide more local support in their PR/PA efforts. You may recall ASLA’s effort called the Understory on Aug 17th…this is an effort he was directly coordinating with chapters across the US. Coming up on April 26th, he’s assisting the chapters with another effort to move chapters to do the same (hopefully differently), but for the same purpose. We in Maryland are setting up tours and presentations at a very public site, Fort McHenry to do just that…bring the knowledge of our work to the public’s awareness and at the same time, help them remember when they are in a space designed and/or preserved to support their recreational, cultural, and environmental needs, that a landscape architect is involved. Again thanks George for your efforts, but do stay connected with the work ASLA is doing, and share your wealth of knowledge skills and abilities because the profession needs your positive motivation. 

    mark foster

    I agree with all.  Too bad about the politicization of the word “green”.  I have seen this too.

    George McNair

    Jason your words below are characteristic of many LAs and I fully agree. When it comes to massive site plans, we are the most qualified by training. The political powers need to realize what we do and put us in the drivers seat. 


    Jason said, “Our voice is not strong, our voice is not united. We do too much crap and we cede parts of our profession to others (urban design in the 50’s and 60’s, parks and monuments to Architects in recent times) and we are losing the whole environmental angle as well. We don’t have our act together, we are being out-competed at our own game and we are being just too nice about it.  We need to be extraordinary extroverts if we are to survive.”

    Zach Watson

    George, I feel like I have to apologize to a degree, there have been a number of comments I have read both here and other places about who the government needs to get their act together and work for ‘us’, meaning they should make it so ‘we’ can do our job.  After reading some additional comments on this thread I don’t think your intention was to say that they government needs to give us work so our profession can survive.  That idea is what I thought your original comment was making reference to.  So I’m sorry for that.  

    I to believe that we need to stand up for ourselves, show people that we bring valuable tools to the table/discussion and that we shouldn’t be overlooked.  Personally I think our profession lacks a sense of value because we have a difficult time quantifying what value our work brings to a project.  Landscape Architecture melds both design and ecological science but our education system (at least in my experience) caters heavily to teaching design and falls short on teaching quantifiable science.

    George McNair

    Now we are on the same page, and I fully agree with your comments.  My original comments were not too well focused and confused your train of thought. My LA career is coming to an end since social security and medicare are happening. My LA goals are more limited, and political. I plan to stay active for as long as my health holds up. My comments may be cynical which helps define nagging problems. Once a problem is clearly identified, we can solve it together. Greater utilization of the LA profession is the answer required.

    Our professional name causes some confusion, and confusion scares off potential clients so what is the answer? Sometimes I wonder if we would be better off renaming ourselves to Land Engineers, or Land Planning Architects,  or Master Plan Engineers and get rid of the word “landscape”. EDAW just remaned themselves so why can’t we? This word  “landscape” causes the public to think landscape gardening, landscape painter, or landscape maintenance, landscape designers. landscape contractors, or landscape planners. 

    Other professions are well defined which reduces confusion which in return directs business their way.  We aren’t confused with the term dentist, doctor, lawyer, teacher, CPA,  mechanic, and so on……………what about LA or Landscape Architect…who are they?……..oh they lay out cute gardens……no they prune and care for botanical gardens…

    Confusion is bad for business.

    So who is called in first to get the job started, and in return this lead professional then calls in the other specialist? Clients call engineers, or architects more often than LAs to do the big jobs of master planning airports, new cities, greenways with homes. The chosen firm may have an LA or two on staff to doll up the project.

    Clients are confused and shy away from LAs and believe we can’t be the lead professional who does the master planning, team selection, parking lot grading, strom drains, etc. Then down the line we get called in to do the irrigation and planting plans at the end of the job. So how do we over come this dilema? Any ideas out there?

    In the meantime, we will continue to fight and up hill battle to gain public confidence and political recognition. 



    Heather Smith

    I worked for the City here…as the sustainability intern a few years and agree with the notion that the term “green” much like “sustainability” has negative connotations. Lets not forget that ANYONE can claim to be “green” or “sustainable”…much like we see the meaning of the term “organic” mean different things to someone interested in purchasing from their local farmer’s market vs. Walmart. I don’t think those terms help us define what we do at all. I know a lot of non professionals that use those terms to market their services and successfully at that. I think some of our challenge as a profession is that fact that what we do can be done and piecemealed out to others. Consider that many municipalities are interested in Safe Routes to school and trail systems…but in our neck of the woods they don’t hire LAs for that, they do it in house with their engineers. If an LA is hired it is to design walkway signs describing Lewis and Clark history and salmon fountains…so not the meat and potatoes…just the dress up. Jon even found a letter from a law firm here in Idaho explaining to the City that he could legally perform the tasks of grading and drainage…yet the firm he was subcontracting through STILL hired an engineer to do it, creating more work in the long term because there was no communication. And the grading that was done was pretty sloppy. Didn’t matter…still went with the engineer.

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