The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) closed 2015 in positive territory. Demand for design services increased in eight out of 12 months last year. “As has been the case for the past several years, there continues to be a mix of business conditions that architecture firms are experiencing,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker in a statement. “Overall, however, ABI scores for 2015 averaged just below the strong showing in 2014, which points to another healthy year for construction this year.” The ABI is the leading indicator of construction activities that reflects the approximately nine to 12 month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The December ABI score was 50.9, up from 49.3 in November. As Kermit Baker will have you know, any score above 50 means an increase in billings. The December new projects inquiry index was 60.2, up 1.6 points from November, while the design contracts index was down 2.5 points, to 51.0, over the same period. The national, new projects inquiry, and design contracts indices are calculated monthly. Except for the Northeast with 46.7 (a 0.5 increase over November), the regional numbers were down for December. The West was at 53.7; the South, 53.3; and the Midwest 46.1. (That's a decline from 54.5, 55.4, and 47.8, respectively.) The sector index breakdown fared similarly. At 46.5, mixed practice was down 1.1 points from November. Multi-family residential fell 0.9 points to 52.9, whilecommercial/industrial billings fell to 47.3, from 51.0 in November. Institutional billings saw a gain of 0.2, to 52.2, for December. The regional and sector categories are calculated as a three month moving average.
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As part of the ongoing preservation efforts surrounding the South Side Chicago neighborhood of Pullman a print and online book has been released reporting the results of a workshop conducted by AIA Chicago and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) in April 2015. Positioning Pullman gives a history as well as a possible way forward for the once flourishing company neighborhood, which has recently been designated a national monument by President Barack Obama. The Pullman neighborhood, once an independent town, was founded by George Pullman in the 1880s to house the workers and their families, of his luxury sleeping train car company. The town, a socially and technically progressive experiment, was designed by architect Solon Spencer Beman and landscape architect Nathan F. Barrett. The community would become a symbol of the industrial revolution and its efficiencies and advancements, as well as its labor tribulations. Pullman would be the site of multiple national policy changing strikes as well as a center for the unionizing movement of the early 20th Century. With the decline of rail travel the company would fold by the late 1960s, with only the name living on as spin off companies into the 198’s. The town's population and its buildings would quickly decline with the company, but a group of community organizers would save the city from total demolition, eventually leading to its landmark, and now national monument, status. The April ideas workshop, and subsequent publication, was charged with outlined a plan to preserve the historic neighborhood, as well as set out guidelines for improving the entire historic site. The workshop was divided into four teams—Park Experience, Historic Preservation, Access and Connections, and Community Development. The teams, organized by AIA Chicago and the NPCA, included architects, landscape architects, city planners, economist and engineers. Community involvement in the front and back ends of the workshop informed and tested ideas on the very people that would be most affected by the neighborhoods development. That development includes the adaptive reuse of historic buildings and sites, new construction, proposed transportation infrastructure and intensive preservation efforts throughout the area. In the next few years the improvements to accessibility, infrastructure, and public amenities, aim to accommodate an expected 300,000 visitors a year. The workshop and publication were supported by The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Chicago Community Trust, and Alphawood Foundation.
As temperatures dipped in November, so did the Architecture Billings Index (ABI). The ABI was 49.3, a 3.8 point drop from October's 53.1. Any score below 50 represents a decrease in billings. AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker seemed unfazed by the drop in billings. “Since architecture firms continue to report that they are bringing in new projects, this volatility in billings doesn’t seem to reflect any underlying weakness in the construction sector. Rather, it could reflect the uncertainty of moving ahead with projects given the continued tightness in construction financing and the growing labor shortage problem gripping the entire design and construction industries.” New projects inquiries were at 58.6, a touch above last month's reading of 58.5. The design contracts index rose to 53.5, an increase 1.8 points from October. Regional averages were mostly down: the Midwest sank to 47.8 from 52.6 last month, the Northeast dropped three points to 46.2, and the South dropped 0.8 to 55.4. The West gained 0.1 points over last month, coming in at 54.5. Billings by sector were a mixed bag. Multi-family residential and institutional billings climbed, while commercial/industrial and mixed practice fell. At 53.8, multi-family residential was up 1.3 points from October. Institutional billings gained 0.6 points in the same time frame. Commercial/industrial fell 4.1 points to 51, and mixed practice was at 47.6, an astonishing 7.3 point drop from the previous month. A quick note on the data: national index, design contracts, and inquiries are calculated monthly. Sector and regional categories are calculated as a three month moving average.
October's Architecture Billings Index down slightly from September, though demand for design services remains high
In fall, warm blooded animals usually slow down as they prepare to hibernate for winter. Yet, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) demonstrates few signs of winter slumber, with increased demand for design services in almost every category. The October ABI of 53.1, the AIA reports, is down 0.6 points from September, but any score over 50 represents an increase in billings. The ABI is the primary economic indicator of construction activity, reflecting a nine to 12 month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. “Allowing for the possibility of occasional and minor backsliding, we expect healthy business conditions for the design and construction industry to persist moving into next year,” AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker said in a statement. “One area of note is that the multi-family project sector has come around the last two months after trending down for the better part of the year.” October's new projects inquiry index was 58.5, down from September's 61.0. Design contracts fell by 1.5 points to 51.7. The South lead the regional averages with a score of 56.2, up from a score of 54.5 in September. The West trailed at 54.4, followed by the Midwest (52.6), and the Northeast at at a paltry 49.2, though up 5.5 points from the previous month. Commercial and industrial construction led the sector breakdowns at 55.1 points, up 4.2 points from September. Mixed practice jumped 2.3 points to 54.9, and multifamily residential climbed 3 points to 52.5. Institutional sector held steady at 51.4, a drop of 0.1 from last month. The national index, new projects inquiries, and design contacts indexes are calculated monthly, while the regional and sector categories are calculated as a three month average.
The seventh AIA Illinois Gold Medal has been presented to Carol Ross Barney of Ross Barney Architects. Barney’s career spans 40 years of practice in Chicago, in which her firm has taken on civic, social, and cultural projects across the country. Known as a champion for the public’s right to design excellence her work often is designed for the public realm. Outside of her practice, Barney is the founder and first president of the Chicago Women in Architecture. Barney is also the first woman to win AIA Illinois’ Gold Medal. Most recently in Chicago, Ross Barney Architects has received praise for its design of the newest portion of the Chicago River Walk. Just to the south, a new elevated public train station of her design has also recently opened. A new central chiller on the south campus of OSU highlights Barney’s commitment to high design even when it comes to infrastructural projects. Remarking on her way with mixing civic, social, and public design, Mike Waldinger, executive vice president of AIA Illinois remarked, “it’s as if Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs had a secret child.” Along with the Gold Medal, Ross Barney Architects received the AIA Illinois Daniel Burnham Honor Award for the Master Plan of the 606, a new linear park recently finished on the northwest side of Chicago.
Architecture Billings Index up for September, though architecture talent pool is not deep enough for demand
It may be getting colder outside, but the Architecture Billing Index (ABI) is heating up. In September, the ABI bounced back to positive territory, and has seen growth in two-thirds of the months this year. The AIA reported that the September ABI was 53.7, up 4.6 points from August. Any score above 50 marks an increase in billings. “Aside from uneven demand for design services in the Northeast, all regions are project sectors are in good shape,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker in a statement. “Areas of concern are shifting to supply issues for the industry, including volatility in building materials costs, a lack of a deep enough talent pool to keep up with demand, as well as a lack of contractors to execute design work.” To that end, the new projects inquiry was down to 61.0, a decrease of 0.8 points from August. The design contracts index was at 53.2, a drop of 2.1 points from August. The South (54.5) led the Midwest (54.2) by a hair for regional averages. The West, at 51.7, was up 1.7 points from August, while the Northeast placed last, at 43.7, a drop of 3.1 points from last month. By sector, commercial/industrial (50.9) was the only category with positive growth. Multi-family residential flatlined at 49.5, while institutional dropped 2.2 points to 51.5. Mixed practice dropped 0.2 points to 52.6. It's important to note that the regional and sector indices are calculated as a 3-month moving average, while the design contracts, inquiries, and national index are monthly figures.
(Courtesy Julia Cohen) Archtober Building of the Day #01 Collaborative Research Center, Rockefeller University 1230 York Avenue, Manhattan Mitchell | Giurgola Architects We’re off! Our first Building of the Day in our fifth year is a showplace for understanding the architect as problem solver and the collaborative nature of the profession. The tour was led by Paul Broches, partner at Mitchell | Giurgola, and Jillian Sheedy, senior associate. Carol Loewenson, AIANY 2016 President-elect, joined in as well. Broches told our group of enthusiasts that each of the scientists was individually interviewed to determine the specific requirements for their laboratories. What a challenge to find general solutions to their complex problems—very nicely done—and it received a citation from AIA New York State in 2013. Rockefeller University is an intellectual oasis, home to some 21 Nobel Laureates, in what the AIA Guide to New York calls the “Hospitalia” neighborhood of the far East Side. These scientists work on basic science and translational science, precursors to medicine, according to Zach Veilleux, from the University Office of Public Affairs. The laboratory complex combines a massive renovation of two early 20th century laboratory buildings by Shepley Bulfinch Richardson (the successor firm to H. H. Richardson) and Abbot, one in 1917 and the other in 1930. The historic buildings are handsome brick structures with modest and restrained classical detailing on cornices and brackets. The two buildings were gutted and conjoined by a glass and metal elliptical cone - the bridge. (Courtesy Julia Cohen) The linking building provides space for vertical circulation and a paradigm shift for the scientist occupants. No longer cosseted away in private worlds, they have a swirling centrifuge of space on six levels in which to serendipitously meet, eat, and relax. It works: each level sports unique groupings of casual seating, benches, and café tables most occupied during our lunch-time tour: science rock-stars in a new comfort zone of social interaction. Science for the benefit of humanity wrapped in a wood slat “scroll” that lines the complex elliptical volume. Tomorrow: more science at the New York Hall of Science in Queens
The Architecture Billings Index declined in August after a relatively robust year. The August ABI score was 49.1, a decline of 5.6 points from July. In July, the new projects inquiries index was 63.7, while August's number decreased by 1.9 points to 61.8. Regional averages were 50.2 (West), 56.1 (Midwest), 46.8 (Northeast), and 53.8 (South). "Over the past several years, a period of sustained growth in billings has been followed by a temporary step backwards," AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker said in a statement. "The fact that project inquiries and new design contracts continue to grow at a healthy pace suggests that this should not be a cause for concern throughout the design and construction industry." By sector, mixed practice (52.8) and institutional (53.7) were in positive territory, while commercial / industrial (49.7) and multi-family residential (49.5) just skirted the positive mark. The design contracts index was 55.3 for August, an increase of 0.8 points over July.
The AIA's Center for Emerging Professionals has launched a new campaign that seeks to address the issue of unpaid internships. The campaign aims to inform "all generations of architects" of the significant contributions that Emerging Professionals bring to the field as well as the value of being paid a substantial amount for one's work “That’s the legacy and history of our profession—this apprenticeship," said Klimatic Architecture principal Susan Schaefer Kliman in one of two campaign videos featured below, "but just because it’s an apprenticeship and a time where you’re still learning, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get paid.” The campaign page provides resources such as a direct link to the Fair Labor Standards Act, the AIA Code of Ethics, and as well as information on AIA's "intern tilting page." AIA also equipped users with a Compensation Survey Salary Calculator, a tool used to provide details on compensation information by region and firm size. https://youtu.be/9BJEwHrpGzk https://youtu.be/GIqXw-BknYk
Chicago's VOA Associates will design artist housing and community studio space in the Pullman, community group Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives announced last week, signaling another step in the resurgent neighborhood on the city's far South Side. President Barack Obama in February named the area a national monument, citing its historic significance as a formative environment for American industrial might and organized labor, including the country's first African-American union. In spite of economic decline over much of the 20th century, the neighborhood retains a handsome collection of Romanesque and Queen Anne–style architecture, as well as a strong sense of community. The new project, dubbed Pullman Artspace, includes 45 artist apartments at 111th Street and Langley Avenue near the new McDonough + Partners-designed Method manufacturing plant, a forthcoming community center, and the Walmart-anchored shopping plaza that in 2010 became the first major development there in years. Artspace is a nonprofit, national chain of art galleries based in Minneapolis. VOA's involvement is the latest news in a long process of revitalization. Earlier this year The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and AIA Chicago mulled the changing neighborhood's future in a design charrette titled "Position Pullman." Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives and others have been working for years to turn around the neighborhood, successfully rehabbing dozens of historic row-homes and inviting attention—along with new investment—to the area.
While you were out grilling hot dogs and searching for the song of the summer (give it up, there isn’t one), the Architecture Billings Index was climbing to its highest score since 2007. In June, the ABI posted a 55.7, up significantly from 51.9 in May. The new projects inquiry index also had a great month, moving from 61.5 to 63.4. By sector, institutional was way ahead of the pack with a score of 59.1. It was followed by mixed practice (54.7), commercial/industrial (51.6), and multi-family residential (47.0). By region, it was Midwest with gold (57.2), South with silver, (54.9), West with bronze, (50.7), and Northeast (50.4) with whatever comes after bronze. A firm handshake and a slice of pizza? “The June numbers are likely showing some catch-up from slow growth earlier this year. This is the first month in 2015 that all regions are reporting positive business conditions and aside from the multi-family housing sector, all design project categories appear to be in good shape,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker in a statement. “The demand for new apartments and condominiums may have crested with index scores going down each month this year and reaching the lowest point since 2011.”
At the 2015 AIA convention in May, former President Bill Clinton gave a keynote address to the unwashed masses. He praised collaboration among designers and other stakeholders, and even admitted that “If I had another life to live, I’d be an architect, especially in this age of climate change.” He is not the only president to speak of a childhood dream of designing buildings. President Obama said in a 2008 campaign speech that he also had aspirations to be an architect as a youngin’. We’re just glad these heads of states didn’t opt for fireman.