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Archive for the ‘ECONOMICS’ Category

"Work" by Alex Kwa from The Noun Project

Work by Alex Kwa from the Noun Project.

From the March issue of LAM:

For most of the past several years, there has not been much to say on the employment front for landscape architects, or for the design and construction industry in general, except that nobody was hiring. And that’s a very short story to tell. But by mid-February, there were definite signs of a steady upward trend in the hiring of landscape architects. Of course, this sort of thing must be said somewhat warily, so as not to jinx or overstate it, but designers themselves offer the proof.

In the first week of February, there were 80 jobs listed on ASLA’s JobLink site; 61 of them were placed in January (most are listings that stay up for 30 days). The last time listings ran this high was 2008; there were about 90 ads placed in both January and February of that year. And we all know what happened over the following several months as the housing market nearly brought down the entire financial system. In January of 2009, there were 14 ads placed; the January number stayed in that range through January 2013, when there were 22 ads.

The jobs listed recently have been diverse. A few public agencies are hiring, and so are design/build firms, landscape contracting companies, small design offices, and global multidisciplinary firms. The destination is no longer just China or bust; there are firms all over the country looking for new people.

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By Arthur Allen

"Get your Farm in the Fight", 1941 - 1945." Courtesy U.S. National Archives.

“Get your Farm in the Fight”, 1941 – 1945.” Courtesy U.S. National Archives.

Environmental issues don’t always focus the minds of the people who write the nation’s farm bills. A 2012 report showing that corn and soy plantings had chewed up 1.3 million acres of grassland in the upper Midwest raised hardly an eyebrow in Congress. Perhaps unsurprising, it took people with guns to draw the legislators’ attention to conservation.

The warnings came from pheasant hunters, who spend $175 million a year in eastern South Dakota (“It’s fun—like shooting free-range chickens,” says one) and have grown increasingly disheartened at seeing their best hunting spots turned into rows of corn. According to a 2012 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the loss in grassland—two Rhode Islands’ worth over five northern states—occurred during five years starting in 2006.

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Ethanols Environmental Damage

Erosion on land recently converted from pasture to cornfield near Lineville, Iowa. July 26, 2013. AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

By Bradford McKee

What has been sold as a great fix to the nation’s fossil fuel problems is rapidly creating a disaster in the American landscape. Ethanol made from corn is supposed to work all kinds of magic for the United States by making us less reliant on foreign oil and, by supplanting petroleum products, cutting the carbon released into the atmosphere. Support for the ethanol industry is now enmeshed in federal policy. In 2007, Congress and the Bush administration passed a law, the Energy Independence and Security Act, that dramatically steps up the amounts of ethanol and other biofuels required to be added to gasoline each year through 2022. The Obama administration promotes ethanol production as a major part of its green-energy strategy to slow climate change.

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By Alex Ulam

In a lecture hall at New York University packed with politicians, planners, and students, an army of designers gathered Monday morning to show the initial stages of their ideas in the Rebuild by Design competition. The competition, for which 10 interdisciplinary design teams were chosen as finalists in August, is a project of the president’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force to generate ideas for protecting coastal communities from big storms such as Sandy, which struck the New Jersey shore one year ago this week, pummeled the New York metropolitan region, and caused more than $60 billion in damage in the United States alone. The competition runs through March. Proposals by winning teams will be eligible for funding by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and private-sector groups.

The Monday morning presentations, which were reprised at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark in the evening, were a much-awaited midpoint review of the process. For all the deep and lingering distress that Hurricane Sandy created—about 50,000 people are still homeless as a result of the storm—it appears that it has presented one of the most pivotal public moments for landscape architecture in decades, even a century.

 

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Photo by Kim Sorvig

Photo by Kim Sorvig

From the June 2013 issue of LAM:

By Kim Sorvig

Five and a half years ago, I learned we might lose our home to oil drilling. Strangers could suddenly be in control of our land, scraping, drilling, fracturing bedrock, leaving the wastes—with no legal responsibility to us. What would happen to the local economy, to services everyone takes for granted, in the Wild West atmosphere of an oil or gas “play,” when boomtown populations double overnight? So began my forced education about petroleum engineering.

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The U.S. Commerce Department reported 760,000 annualized housing starts in June, the most since October 2008. Housing starts have been on the climb for four quarters now, which hasn’t happened since 2005. The multifamily sector is a major reason for the jump. Bloomberg Businessweek posits the housing market has finally hit bottom and is beginning to recover. But we’re not totally out of the woods yet. The Christian Science Monitor quotes IHS Global Insights saying that 1.5 million units would need to be constructed if the economic climate were “normal,” a rate they don’t expect until 2015. And the New York Times notes: “The broader American economy has looked weaker as of late. If the recovery failed and the country tipped back into recession, housing would also suffer.” It points out that new permits for building homes declined slightly in June.

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The latest economic data from the American Institute of Architects is rather alarming. Its Architecture Billings Index shows architecture firms experienced “substantial” decreases in billable hours across all regions of the United States during the month of May. The index is derived from a panel of AIA member-owned firms that report whether their billings increased, decreased, or stayed the same in the previous month.

What these figures mean for the landscape architecture profession is all very murky. Architects are the second-largest client group for landscape architects. But the demand for buildings does not always correlate with the demand for landscape design and planning.

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