The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) remains in negative territory for the second straight month. While the April index ticked up to 49.6, from 48.8 last month, it was not enough to break 50, which signals an increase in design services. The new projects inquiry, however, increased from 57.9 to 59.1. The overall decrease was caused by disappointing numbers posted in the West (48.9), Midwest (47.0), and especially in the Northeast (42.9). While those regions came up short, the South showed signs of life with a score of 57.5 By sector, multi-family residential (52.6), commercial/industrial (50.2), and mixed practice (50.7) all saw gains, while institutional (47.1) could not break 50. The AIA’s latest metric introduced last month, the design contracts index, recorded a steep increase to 54.6. “Despite an easing in demand for architecture services over the last couple of months, there is a pervading sense of optimism that business conditions are poised to improve as the year moves on,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. “With a healthy figure for design contracts this should translate into improved billings in the near future.”
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Big projects command the most media attention, but small works of art and architecture can still make a splash. That’s the ethos of AIA Chicago’s fourth annual Small Projects Awards, which last week named 13 honorees among 96 entries that included Chinatown’s new boathouse, a barn-like complement to Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth house, and an un-built “Safe House” for tornado-ravaged Joplin, Missouri. The winners fell into one of five categories: 1,001-5,000 Square Feet, 500 Square Feet and Under, 501-1,000 Square Feet, Objects, Un-built Buildings. (Last year's winners.) Little You is a speech therapy center built with a modest budget of $154 per square foot. Made of black manganese modular brick and clear anodized aluminum, the modern building embraces the neighborhood’s 50s-era commercial building stock. Mies’ archetypal modernist home, the Farnsworth House, is sinking. While preservationists decide how to minimize damages from future floods, the Barnsworth Exhibition Center provides temporary exhibition space for Edith Farnsworth’s wardrobe. Recycled lumber scraps from the circular-plan barn went to create an end-grain floor. Not attempting to out-Mies Mies, the Barnsworth instead nods to the site’s agrarian setting. Safe House won the un-built buildings category for its mission to provide refuge from storms like the tornado that destroyed much of Joplin, Missouri in 2011. Built with insulated concrete forms, from foundation to exterior walls to roof, the efficient construction method reduces energy bills by 50 percent, according to designers Wrap Architecture. The concrete roof is left exposed, pattern imprinted and sealed. Screens are rated to wind forces of 175 mph, so a safe room is included for the most severe storms. Read about all the entries here.
The AIA's Committee on the Environment (COTE) has announced the winners of its annual sustainability awards program. Now in its 18th year, the COTE awards celebrate green architecture, design, and technology. According to a press release, the winning projects must “make a positive contribution to their communities, improve comfort for building occupants and reduce environmental impacts.” Each of the ten winners will be officially honored at the AIA's National Convention and Design Exhibition in Chicago later this year, but, in the meantime, here’s a closer look at the 10 winners. Arizona State University Student Health Services (Pictured at top) Tempe, Arizona Lake|Flato Architects + Orcutt|Winslow According to the AIA: “The Arizona State University (ASU) Health Services Building is an adaptive reuse project that transformed the existing sterile and inefficient clinic into a clearly organized, efficient, and welcoming facility. The design imbues the new facility with a sense of health and wellness that leverages Tempe’s natural environment and contributes to a more cohesive pedestrian oriented campus. The building’s energy performance is 49% below ASHRAE 90.1-2007, exceeding the current target of the 2030 Challenge. The facility achieved LEED Platinum certification and is one of the best energy performers on campus as evidenced by ASU’s Campus Metabolism interactive web-tool tracking real-time resource use.” Bud Clark Commons Portland, Oregon Holst Architecture According to the AIA: “As a centerpiece of Portland’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, this LEED Platinum project provides a continuum of services to help transition homeless individuals toward stable, permanent living arrangements. The architecture helps achieve this goal with a walk-in day center with public courtyard and access to support services; a 90-bed temporary shelter; and a separate and secure entrance to 130 efficient, furnished studio apartments for homeless individuals seeking permanent housing. The building’s design aims to deinstitutionalize services and housing for the most vulnerable in our population. Sustainable features include large-scale graywater recycling, zero stormwater runoff, solar hot water, and a high-performance envelope, resulting in energy savings estimated at $60,000 annually.” Bushwick Inlet Park Brooklyn, New York Kiss + Cathcart, Architects According to the AIA: “This project is the first phase of the transformation of the Greenpoint–Williamsburg waterfront from a decaying industrial strip to a multifaceted public park. The design team integrated a program of playfields, public meeting rooms, classrooms, and park maintenance facilities, into a city-block sized site. The park building becomes a green hill on the west side, making 100% of the site usable to the public, and offering views to Manhattan. Below the green roof is a complex of building systems – ground source heat pump wells, rainwater harvest and storage, and drip irrigation. A solar trellis produces half the total energy used in the building.” Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt (EGWW) Federal Building Modernization Portland, Oregon SERA Architects in association with Cutler Anderson Architects According to the AIA: “On track to be one of the lowest energy-use buildings in the U.S., EGWW is a model for U.S. General Services Administration nationwide. The project’s goal was to transform the existing building from an aging, energy hog to one of the premiere environmentally-friendly buildings in the nation. With a unique facade of “reeds”, light shelf /sunshades designed by orientation and a roof canopy that supports a 180 kW photovoltaic array while collecting rainwater, EGWW pushes the boundaries for innovative sustainable deign strategies. In addition to the energy improvements, the design reveals the history of the building, exposing the artifacts of the original builders.” Gateway Center - SUNY-ESF College of Environmental Science & Forestry Syracuse, NY Architerra According to the AIA: “The SUNY-ESF College of Environmental Science & Forestry Gateway Center is a striking symbol of environmental stewardship and climate action leadership. This LEED Platinum campus center meets ESF’s goal of reducing the overall carbon footprint of the campus through net positive renewable energy production, while creating a combined heat and power plant and intensive green roof that serve as hands-on teaching and research tools. The double-ended bioclimatic form exemplifies passive solar design. Net positive energy systems integrated with the design serve four adjacent ESF buildings, providing 60% of annual campus heating needs and 20% of annual power needs.” John & Frances Angelos Law Center Baltimore, Maryland Behnisch Architekten and Ayers Saint Gross According to the AIA: “The John and Frances Angelos Law Center is the first large-scale opportunity for the University of Baltimore to demonstrate its intent to pursue strategies that eliminate global warming emissions and achieve climate neutrality. With this in mind, the Law Center is a highly sustainable and innovative structure that strives to reduce reliance on energy and natural resources, minimizing its dependence on mechanical ventilation and artificial lighting of interiors. This is part of a larger comprehensive effort on the part of the A/E team to approach sustainability from a more holistic vantage point from the outset of the project.” Sustainability Treehouse Glen Jean, West Virginia Design Architect: Mithun; Executive Architect/Architect of Record: BNIM According to the AIA: “Situated in the forest at the Summit Bechtel Reserve, this interactive, interpretive and gathering facility serves as a unique icon of scouting adventure, environmental stewardship and high performance building design. Visitors ascend indoor and outdoor platforms to experience the forest from multiple vantages and engage with educational exhibits that explore the site and ecosystem at the levels of ground, tree canopy and sky. Innovative green building systems—including a 6,450-watt photovoltaic array output, two 4,000-watt wind turbines, and a 1,000-gallon cistern and water cleansing system—combine to yield a net-zero energy and net-zero water facility that touches its site lightly.” The David and Lucile Packard Foundation Headquarters Los Altos, California EHDD According to the AIA: “The David and Lucile Packard Foundation headquarters acts as a catalyst for broad organizational sustainability and brings staff, grantees and partners together to solve the world’s most intractable problems. The Foundation's connection to the Los Altos community dates back to its inception in 1964. For the last two decades, as its grant making programs expanded locally and worldwide, staff and operations have been scattered in buildings throughout the city. This project enhances proximity and collaboration while renewing the Foundation’s commitment to the local community by investing in a downtown project intended to last through the end of 21st century.” U.S. Land Port of Entry Warroad, Minnesota Snow Kreilich Architects According to the AIA: “This LEED Gold certified Land Port of Entry is the first to employ a ground source heat pump system. Sustainably harvested cedar was used on the entire exterior envelope, canopies and some interior walls and 98% of all wood on the project is FSC certified. Additionally 22% of the material content came from recycled materials and 91% of all work areas have access to daylight. Rainwater collection, reconstructed wetlands and native plantings address resource and site-specific responses. The facility proudly supports the mission-driven demands of US Customs and Border Protection while addressing the sustainable challenges of our future.” Wayne N. Aspinall Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse Grand Junction, Colorado Design Architect, Westlake Reed Leskosky and Architect of Record, The Beck Group According to the AIA: “The LEED® Platinum renovation preserves an anchor in Grand Junction, and converts the 1918 landmark into one of the most energy efficient, sustainable historic buildings in the country. The design aims to be GSA’s first Site Net-Zero Energy facility on the National Register. Exemplifying sustainable preservation, it restores and showcases historic volumes and finishes, while sensitively incorporating innovative systems and drastically reducing energy consumption. Features include a roof canopy-mounted 123 kW photovoltaic array, variable-refrigerant flow heating and cooling systems, 32-well passive Geo-Exchange system, a thermally upgraded enclosure, energy recovery, wireless controls, fluorescent and LED lighting, and post-occupancy monitoring.”
After starting the year on a positive trend, the Architectural Billings Index ticked down last month. The March ABI score dropped sharply from February’s score of 50.7 to 48.8. This moves the index into negative territory as any score below 50 signifies a decrease in design services. The new projects inquiry, though, did tick up from 56.8 to 57.9. The sharpest declines were in the Northeast and Midwest, which posted scores of 46.8 and 46.6, respectively. The South (52.8) and West (50.7) both remained in positive territory. By sector, multi-family residential was the only positive marker at 52.1, while commercial/industrial (49.6), institutional (49.0), and mixed practice (47.6) dipped below 50. “This protracted softening in demand for design services is a bit of a surprise given the overall strength of the market the last year and a half,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. “Hopefully, some of this can be attributed to severe weather conditions over this past winter. We will have a better sense if there is a reason for more serious concern over the next couple of months.” The AIA has also announced a new metric to measure design contracts. According to the AIA, this will be a less subjective way to estimate future billings activities at architecture firms. “We determined that the most accurate predictor of future design workloads is the monthly change in the volume of new design contracts.” said Baker. In its inaugural measurement, the Design Contracts Index posted 48.2 in March.
After the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) posted positive gains in January, the question everyone was asking was, "What comes next?" Today, the AIA's monthly report answered that question with a bit more good news. The ABI was measured at 50.7 in February, which is up slightly from a January score of 50.4. So, how did this happen? The change was due to strong numbers posted in the South (52.8) and the West (50.5). But dragging the group down, the Northeast and Midwest both scored below 50 with scores of 48.3 and 47.6, respectively (any score below 50 indicates a decline). By sector, multi-family residential had the best month at 52.5, followed by commercial/industrial (51.9), institutional (49.6), and mixed practice (46.6). While the ABI saw a slight gain overall, the new projects inquiry index, dropped from 58.5 to 56.8. These postings, though, were likely negatively impacted by February's severe weather. “The unusually severe weather conditions in many parts of the country have obviously held back both design and construction activity,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker in a statement. “The March and April readings will likely be a better indication of the underlying health of the design and construction markets. We are hearing reports of projects that had been previously shelved for extended periods of time coming back online as the economy improves.”
After months of slowed growth at the end of last year, the Architecture Billing Index ticked up slightly in January. The ABI score was measured at 50.4, up from 48.5 in December—and that’s good news because any score above 50 means positive growth. The positive number was largely due to growth in the South (53.5) and the West (51.1). The ABI dipped below 50 in both the Midwest and Northeast, with scores of 46.5 and 43.6, respectively. By sector, multi-family residential (51.8) and commercial/industrial (50.9) showed the strongest growth, while mixed practice (48.4) and institutional (46.5) both failed to post gains. And while January’s overall ABI was above 50, the new projects inquiry index dropped slightly from 59.2 to 58.5. Overall, January was a pretty good month. “There is enough optimism in the marketplace that business conditions should return to steady growth as the year progresses,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker in a statement.
Over time, architects, designers, and engineers have demonstrated how the structural significance and quality of architectural design impacts the built environment and the quality of life of people residing within it. To drive that point home, the AIA has released an infographic showing architecture's key role in the enhancement of individuals' physical and mental well-being. The interactive charts explore how design plays significantly more than an aesthetic function. It is not solely about linear or convex shapes, about geometric structures or innovative materials. Rather, the importance of architecture lies in the choices that architects make when designing buildings in order to positively affect the quality of life of its users. The infographic entitled "Designing Community, Shaping Health" was designed by Link Studio and depicts how diligent architectural decision-making can impact human life. The graphics show a variety of objects that the user is able to scroll over or click on in order to see their function and impacts. For instance, clicking on a staircase will explain in great detail how buildings that are not equipped with elevators ultimately benefit individuals through exercise. In fact, stair-climbers have a 20 percent lower risk of stroke or death than elevator-users. The AIA makes a point that architects are not just instrumental in the modeling of a building, but rather, how they contribute to the shaping of our happiness and unhappiness as well. AIA’s message is that design doesn’t just impact our lives. It can save them. View the infographic here.
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.
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.