Following a period of extended growth, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI), which is compiled by the AIA, declined for the second straight month, down to 48.5 in December from 49.8 in November (any score below 50 indicates a decline). The news is not entirely bleak, however, as new project inquiries rose to 59.2 up from 57.8. The regional breakdown reflects a reversal of fortunes during the recovery. The Northeast, long the leading region for the ABI, is now trailing the other three regions, with a paltry score of only 42.8. The long suffering West now leads at 53.2, followed by the South at 51.2. The Midwest is also mired in negative territory at 47.0. By sector, multi-family residential leads at 53.8, mixed practice follows at 51.0, commercial/industrial at 47.1, and institutional work trails at 44.8. AIA chief economist made a cautionary statement: "What we thought last month was an isolated dip now bears closer examination to see what is causing the slowdown in demand for architectural services." Stay tuned.
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All good things must come to an end. Following a robust six months, the demand for design services has simmered down. In November, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) slid from 51.6 in October to 49.8 (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). This the second month in a row that the ABI has experienced a small dip. “Architecture firms continue to report widely varying views of business conditions across the country. This slight dip is likely just a minor, and hopefully temporary, lull in the progress of current design projects,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “But there is a continued uneasiness in the marketplace as businesses attempt to determine the future direction of demand for commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings.” Across the country, regional averages fell by several points. The West took the biggest hit with numbers tumbling to a low from 55.9 in October to 50.2 in November. It was a slow month for the Northeast as well, dropping to 47.5 from 49.7 in October. The South also went through a bit of a slump, dipping more than two points to 52. The Midwest came out the best, remaining steady at 51.6. Figures revealed that the commercial/industrial sector came to a crawl last month, falling most dramatically from 53.7 in October to 48.6. All the remaining sectors experienced a decline in November as well: multi-family residential (55.2), mixed practice (53.1), institutional (47.7). In more bad news, the project inquiries index dropped from 61.5 to 57.8.
After a three-month streak of positive growth, the Architecture Billings Index revealed a small dip in the demand for design services. The ABI score slid down from 54.3 in September to 51.6 in October (any score above 50 indicates an increase). AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker said that the tumultous political climate—read Government Shutdown—contributed to the drop in activity last month. “There continues to be a lot of uncertainty surrounding the overall U.S. economic outlook and therefore in the demand for nonresidential facilities, which often translates into slower progress on new building projects,” said Baker. “That is particularly true when you factor in the federal government shutdown that delayed many projects that were in the planning or design phases.” October was a month of mixed results for architects across the country. Numbers rose slightly in the the South, jumping from 54.1 in September up to 54.4 in October. The Midwest also came out strong climbing to 51.6 from 51. The West, though, took a bit of a nosedive, falling from 60.6 to 55.9. The Northeast (49.7) also didn't fare quite as well as the previous month. There was a surge of multi-family and residential projects last month. The sector climbed up a couple of points from 55.6 to 57. Meanwhile figures showed a decline for the other sectors: commercial/industrial (53.7), mixed practice (53.2), and institutional (50.2). The rise in new projects inquiry, however, bodes well for the future—moving from 58.6 to 61.5 last month.
The slow days of the recession are long gone. Recent figures indicate that September was another robust month for the architecture industry. The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) rose from 53.8 in August to 54.3 (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker said that this upswing in the demand for design services is a reflection of the industry's new and advanced design and business practices. “The prolonged economic downturn that has affected the design and construction industry has actually resulted in the increased productivity levels as reported by architecture firms,” Baker said. “In addition to new approaches to business challenges, a very competitive marketplace, the utilization of new technologies, and a renewed focus on efficiency have architecture firms realizing all-time highs in workplace productivity, and these new efficiencies can greatly benefit clients from a project timeline and budget standpoint,” continued Baker. Some regions fared better than others last month. The West came out strong, jumping nearly 6 points from 54.8 to 60.6. The South also showed positive growth increasing from 51.9 to 54.1. The Midwest dipped down to 51 from 52.8, and the Northeast also slipped several points from 54.4 to 50.7. The commercial/industrial and multi-family sectors have been busier than usual. The former spiking up several points to 57.9 from 54.8, and the latter climbing to 55.6 from 52.1. Mixed practice, however, tumbled down to 55.4, and institutional projects experienced a slight drop from 50.8 to 50.4. For the second month in a row the project inquiries index has taken a dive, falling from 63 to 58.6.
At the end of September, the AIA released “Cities as Lab”, a report stipulating how innovative design can help strengthen modern urban America. Presented during the National Leadership Speaker Series in Washington D.C., it stressed how resilient cities are better suited to address upcoming social, economic, and physical challenges. The report is part of a larger framework looking to guide the international development agenda for decades to come. As a whole, it seeks to fuel the progress of critical sustainable programs around the world. The AIA report states that by incorporating innovative design and technology within their internal structure, cities would have the power to lead the way toward the future. Urban enclaves are being reconfigured in order to respond to changing realities and contemporary human and economic needs. Some of the key examples stated in the report include the Boston Innovation District, North Carolina's Research Triangle Plan, and the Downtown Project in Las Vegas. These programs focus on a series of urban experiments seeking to promote knowledge exchange and economic opportunities, to develop new technological hubs, to mitigate the ecological footprint through sustainable design, and to introduce new architectural archetypes in order to foster creative place-making. All of these ideas are critical linchpins for visionary and sustainable planning. In its concluding remarks, the report indicates that intelligent design and wise policy choices help create places that are suited to meet the needs of future populations, to respond to economic challenges, and to manage natural disasters. The general idea is to create more resilient communities and sustainable infrastructures that will be able to sustain future economic and physical challenges. The initiative focuses on ways to create more valuable, healthy, secure and sustainable built environments by exploring solutions to pressing issues that urban enclaves are faced with.
Recent economic figures from the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) revealed that summer finished on a high note with a significant rise in the demand for design services. The ABI score for the month of August jumped more than a full point from July climbing up to 53.8 from 52.7 (any score above 50 indicates positive growth). AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, sees positive growth for the industry, but remains cautious about the future. “As business conditions at architecture firms have improved eleven out of the past twelve months, it is fair to say that the design professions are in a recovery mode,” Baker said. “This upturn signals an impending turnaround in nonresidential construction activity, but a key component to maintaining this momentum is the ability of businesses to obtain financing for real estate projects, and for a resolution to the federal government budget and debt ceiling impasse.” All three regions except for the South experienced an upswing in billings. Numbers for the West (54.8) rose sharply by more than three points from July. The Midwest also made considerable improvement, jumping from 50.8 the previous month to 52.8 in August. The Northeast (54.4) remained steady, increasing by just a smidgen. The South (51.9), however, didn't fare as well falling by more than two points. All in all, the different sectors came out strong. The numbers for mixed practice indicated strong progress, surging from 56.9 to 60.1 in August. Commercial/Industrial (54.8) and Institutional (50.8) sectors remain in good shape, whereas, multi-family residential dropped down to 52.1 from 53.3 in July. Even as the ABI score shows signs of improvement in the industry, unfortunately, the project inquiries tumbled from 66.4 in July to 63.0 in August.
Summer isn't slowing the demand for design services, according to the AIA's latest economic figures. In fact, numbers are on the rise. The AIA's Architecture Billings Index (ABI) for July increased more than a full point spike in non-residential construction activity from June's ABI score of 51.6 to 52.7 (any score above 50 indicates positive growth). Most notably, the new projects inquiry index produced positive results with a substantial increase from 62.6 the previous month to 66.7 in July. While numbers lapsed in most regions in July, the Midwest came out strong climbing to 50.8 from 48.3 in June. The Northeast fell more than a point from 55.6 in June to 54.3. The West slipped ever-so-slightly from 51.2 to 51.1. And the South dropped to 54.2. Mixed practice was the only sector to pull through and show significant progress shooting up more than four points to 56.9 in July. The other industry sectors experienced a small decline: commercial / industrial (54.2), multi-family residential (53.3), institutional (50.6). “There continues to be encouraging signs that the design and construction industry continues to improve,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, in a statement. “But we also hear a wide mix of business conditions all over the country, ranging from outstanding and booming to slowly improving to flat. In fact, plenty of architecture firms are reporting very weak business conditions as well, so it is premature to declare the entire sector has entered an expansion phase.” In spite of the industry's promising growth, the same positive trend has not been reflected in the compensation for architecture positions. AIA published its recent compensation survey, revealing minimal change in salaries since the recession in 2008. "Between 2011 and 2013, average total compensation for architecture positions—including base salary, overtime, bonuses, and incentive compensation—increased only slightly over one percent per year, barely more than the average increase in compensation between 2008 and 2011, when the construction sector was still in steep decline," the report read.
The winners of AIA Chicago’s Small Project Awards are on display through August 22 at 23 E. Madison St. “Not everyone needs a skyscraper,” reads the awards program’s tagline. The third annual Small Firm/Small Project Awards recognize quality in small Chicago architectural firms (nine or fewer licensed architects and interns) and small local projects. Projects were honored in four categories: Additions/Remodeling, Kitchens, New Construction, and Small Objects.
Numbers are staying strong. AIA's Architecture Billing Index for the month of June has revealed steady, but positive growth. The June ABI score of 51.6 reflected only a slight drop from May's score of 52.9, and still indicates a general upswing for the non-residential construction industry. More projects will likely be on the horizon. The new projects inquiry index reported a significant climb in numbers to 62.6 from 59.1 the previous month. “With steady demand for design work in all major nonresidential building categories, the construction sector seems to be stabilizing,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, in a statement. “Threats to a sustained recovery include construction costs and labor availability, inability to access financing for real estate projects, and possible adverse effects in the coming months from sequestration and the looming federal debt ceiling debate.” Across the country, the numbers were generally up with the exception of the West, which experienced a slight dip to 51.2 from 52.1 in May. It was, however, a particularly robust month for the Northeast which came out with a score of 55.6. The South also finished strong with an uptick to 54.8 from 50.9 last month in June. And even the Midwest saw progress with a score of 48.3. All sectors remain on solid footing but institutional has slowed down a smidgen: commercial / industrial (54.7), multi-family residential (54.0), mixed practice (52.4), institutional (51.8).
Between keynote sessions, awards presentations, and interviews at the American Institute of Architects' (AIA) National 2013 Convention, AN's editors joined 20,000 attending architects in the search for the newest and most innovative products on the floor of the Colorado Convention Center's exposition hall. Following are a few notable discoveries. SureClad Porcelain Stone Crossville The Tennessee-based supplier of interior ceramics has partnered with Shackerley, a British manufacturer of porcelain ventilated facade systems, for an exterior cladding solution that meets U.S. building codes, including all seismic and hurricane standards. The system (pictured above) is supported by an aluminum frame and is delivered to job sites as a prefabricated system to ensure fast and efficient installation. SunGuard Neutral 78/65 Guardian Industries Developed to passively retain heat in colder climates, Neutral 78/65's low-E coating facilitates high visible light and a neutral color. It can be used in double- or triple-glazed units and can also be combined with any of SunGuard's other low-E coatings. AA5450 Series OptiQ Window Kawneer The new series in the OptiQ line of windows maintains thermal continuity and reduces energy transmission in both single and double hung constructions thanks to a polyamide thermal break. The 4-and-5/8-inch aluminum frame maintains a minimal profile and can be outfitted with 1-inch double pane or 1-and-1/2-inch triple pane insulated glass. OptiQ Windows are also available with expanded configurations. Benchmark Facade Systems Kingspan A fully integrated line of ventilated exterior cladding debuted at AIA 2013 and is now available from Kingspan. The company supplies a complete system of metal rails, insulated panels with a Bayer-developed polyurethane, and fastening solutions. The cladding is available in aluminum composite material (ACM), metal composite material (MCM), plate, high pressure laminate (HPL), ceramic granite, terra cotta, and thin brick, and comes in a broad range of colors. YUW 750 XTH Unitized Wall System YKK Hurricane and impact mitigating glazing for low- to mid-rise commercial buildings can be applied to multi-span curtain and single-span ribbon walls with YKK's latest addition to its ProTek portfolio. The new wall system can be specified with visible exterior face covers, a four-sided structural silicone glaze, or in a combination of both. It also boasts U-factors as low as .30.
At the AIA’s National Convention in Denver, held from June 19–22, AN’s Emily Hooper sat down with Spanish architect Francisco Mangado, who was in attendance to receive an honorary fellowship. Mangado discussed foreboding amendments to Spain’s law of professional services that would allow engineers, or anyone deemed “competent” in construction, to design and erect buildings across the nation. The law was introduced at a council meeting of Government Ministers in April of 2013, and a final pass-or-fail decision will be reached by the end of this year. Mangado: At the moment, we are very concerned about this. There are important demonstrations in Spain against this amendment because the government wants to change the law and allow engineers to do buildings. Right now, only the architect has the capacity to design and build buildings. But now the government, in a very very wrong way I think, [has proposed this and] there is no correspondence with the kind of training of architects and engineers receive in school, to extend the possibility to design and make architecture. Of course we are complaining, not only for a professional questioning, but for cultural and conceptual consideration. Architecture is not only construction. It has to do with the city, with the values of the citizen, with the public space, with beauty, with historical and symbolic concepts, but engineers don't manage these. In the same way that I'm not prepared to make a bridge, I think the government has to realize engineers aren't prepared to design buildings. Right now we are organizing a lot of complaints. After the summer I think the country’s students of architecture will go out to the streets to demonstrate and defend the profession, even with very violent demonstrations because it’s the only way our government will understand these things. We have a government that’s a disaster. The crisis is terrible but this government is increasing that crisis. So the problem of Spain is not only this government; the former government—of socialism—was another disaster. And the conservatives are just another. So the problem of Spain is our politicians. We have a very intelligent country of people who are well prepared with the capacity to work but we have a cancer—which is called politicians. They don’t accept anything. They don’t understand anything. I studied economic science before studying architecture; I know what it means to make an economy. An economy is a very important political component. Economy doesn’t mean you manage a society as if we were just a number in a computer. It’s much more. What is happening with architecture is just another sign of how wrong they are. But we have confidence in the citizens that we will defend our position. My family created an architecture and society foundation that at the moment is considered the most important architecture institution in Spain. Because the social architectural association went bankrupt from the crisis, our association has assumed the role of organizing conferences, lectures, and defending architecture in this sense against the government. If it’s necessary to be in the street, with protest, with violence, we will be there defending architecture. AN: So, this law is an economic measure. Mangado: Exactly. They are making this because they think they are going to reevaluate the cost for doing architecture. The reasoning is the more people they have doing architecture, the less the fees. But it’s completely wrong. At the moment in Spain, there are 40,000 architects and another 40,000 students of architecture, waiting to become architects. With this enormous amount of architects they already have competition. Architecture is a relationship with society. We are making buildings to serve a society, so architects have to be keen on these kinds of questions. What also happened is the government has made the most of the academic schedule in order to prepare this law because they know that 40,000 students are on vacation and they know if these students were at university now, tomorrow they’d have 40,000 young people on the streets.
The AIA Gold Medal Award is the highest honor an architect can receive from the American Institute of Architects. Until now, the award could only be presented to individual architects, but the AIA has just announced that as of January 1, 2014 this prestigious award will be open to an individual or two individuals who have equally collaborated on the design and execution of one distinguished architectural body of work that makes a lasting statement on the theory and practice of architecture. The revision was prompted by the recent controversial campaign, led by a group of passionate young women architects, to retroactively confer the Pritzker Architecture Prize to Denise Scott Brown. Twenty-two years ago the architect was excluded from the award when it was granted to her husband and equal partner, Robert Venturi, in 1999. The Pritzker jury has refused to revisit it’s decision, denying Denise Scott Brown the award. In reference to the AIA's recent revisions to the criteria for the Gold Medal Award, AIA President, Mickey Jacob said in a press release, “This is an idea that has been percolating for several years and we feel that the decision to make this important and historic change better reflects the changing nature of architectural practice that has become increasingly more collaborative. We took a careful, measured approach to the implications that this decision will have on the award itself and we are confident that this is a positive change for the architecture profession going forward.” In the past the AIA Gold Medal has been bestowed upon world-renowned architects such as Louis Sullivan (1944), Frank Gehry (1999), Steven Holl (2012), and this year, to Thom Mayne. This year's Gold Medalist has been recognized for his outstanding designs for projects such as 41 Cooper Square in New York City, The San Francisco Federal Building, and the Giant Group Campus in Shanghai. So far, however, a woman has yet to receive the distinction.