Posts tagged with "The Economy":

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That’s So 2007: Architecture Billings Index Continues to Show Healthy Increase

Over the past few months the Architecture Billings Index has shown the strongest growth in the demand for design services since 2007 and once again reports an incrementally strengthened score of 54.9 for February, a slight increase from a 54.2 in January (and a 51.2 in December). All four regions scored above 50, an indicator of positive growth. The Northeast performed the best at 56.7, the West and the Midwest tied at 54.7, and the South finished with a 52.7. Inquiries for new projects scored the highest mark since January 2007,  steadily inching to a 64.8 from last month's 63.2. “Conditions have been strengthening in all regions and construction sectors for the last several months,” AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker said in a statement. “Still, we also continue to hear a mix of business conditions in the marketplace as this hesitant recovery continues to unfold.” By sector, all areas were in positive territory and showed a healthy increase from January: mixed practice (56.9), commercial/industrial (53.3), institutional (50.2), and multi-family residential (60.9), which particularly soared from a 54.9 in January.
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On View> Triggering Reality: New Conditions for Art and Architecture in the Netherlands

Triggering Reality: New Conditions for Art and Architecture in the Netherlands Centro per l’arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato, Italy Curated by Giampiero Sanguigni with the collaboration of Marco Brizzi The economic crisis may be a global phenomenon, but in the Netherlands it has shown its effects in full swing. During the '80s and '90s, Dutch architects and artists benefited from generous public funding supporting architecture and the arts. Nowadays, they face the same shortages as their European counterparts. Yet, history teaches that in the face of a recession, architecture shrinks; it hides by borrowing from other disciplines: sculpture, decorative, and performative arts. Triggering Reality displays the work of young (and not-so-young) professionals, whose works range from decorative pieces of urban sculpture like Atelier Van Lieshout’s made-from-recycled-material cow, to small and ephemeral vanishing pieces of architecture like Dus Architects’ bubble building. History also teaches that crisis can sharpen a person’s wits, and architects sometimes grow their works within existing structures. The work by Krijn De Koning, for example, consists of small reinventions of interiors. Overall an example of how even now, with less money, the Netherlands can build architectural examples to reflect upon.
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The City That Never Was: Learning from the Spanish Housing Bubble

Described as "crime scene photos," stark images of Spain’s housing bubble landscapes depict a grim reality. But instead of a somber discourse on the evils of political corruption and real estate speculation, the Architectural League’s symposium this past Friday, The City That Never Was, looked forward and, as Iñaki Abalos aptly asked, wondered if we, "can turn shit into gold." Building on their research and design studios at the University of Pennsylvania, Chris Marcinkoski and Javier Arpa, the moderators, explored the future of urbanism through the lens of Spain’s economic crisis and its resulting desolate urban form. Framing the historical context of boom and bust cycles, they reveal that the Spanish situation is only unique in scale and intensity. It exists as part of a larger commodification of urbanism all over the world resulting in similar conditions in an ever simplified placeless urbanism. An international range of speakers from both Spain and the US covered issues regarding agricultural production, city planning, waste flows, and repurposing of vacant land. Each panel ended in a group discussion which began as an invigorating dialog, but by end of day became a bit muddled in message. University of Pennsylvania’s new Chair of Landscape Architecture, Richard Weller, struck a positive note in the final panel when he said that each speaker had "left clues" as to how the current situation could be ameliorated and avoided in the future. Some of which included Barcelona’s Enric Batlle’s ideas regarding the preparation of space over time providing a road map for incremental change and Chris Reed’s kit of parts for Detroit which could be useful in facilitating the reuse of incomplete developments. In thinking about other paradigms for development, Weller advised "designing the system, not the aesthetic." To that point, the discussion of waste became particularly fertile when Robin Nagle, anthropologist-in-residence for the NY Department of Sanitation answered the previously asked question with a resounding, "Shit is gold!" The audience may not have left with a definitive recommendation but was certainly inspired about the possibilities.
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Architecture Billings Index Sees Strongest Gains Since November 2007

The Architecture Billings Index showed renewed strength in January, with a jump to 54.2 from 51.2 in December (any score above 50 indicates positive growth). All four regions were in positive territory with the Midwest leading at 54.4, the long struggling West showing strength at 53.4, the South came in at 51.7, and the Northeast at 50.3. The Index posted the strongest gains since November 2007. Inquiries for new projects also surged, rising to 63.2 from 57.9 in December. “We have been pointing in this direction for the last several months, but this is the strongest indication that there will be an upturn in construction activity in the coming months,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, in a statement.  “But as we continue to hear about overall improving economic conditions and that there are more inquiries for new design projects in the marketplace, a continued reservation by lending institutions to supply financing for construction projects is preventing a more widespread recovery in the industry.” By sector, all areas were in positive territory: mixed practice (54.9), multi-family residential (54.5), commercial/industrial (52.0), and institutional (50.2).
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Five Alive! Billings Index Climbs Again

The AIA's Architectural Billings Index (ABI) stayed in positive territory for the fifth straight month in December with a score of 52.0 (any score above 50 indicates growth). The level of growth edged down slightly from November's mark of 53.2. By region, the Midwest is currently performing the best (55.7), followed by the Northeast (53.1), and the South (51.2). The West remains in negative territory (49.6). “While it’s not an across the board recovery, we are hearing a much more positive outlook in terms of demand for design services,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, in a statement. Federal budget cuts, however, could impact the recovery. “Moving into 2013 we are expecting this trend to continue and conditions improve at a slow and steady rate. That said, we remain concerned that continued uncertainty over the outcomes of budget sequestration and the debt ceiling could impact further economic growth,” Baker said. By sector, commercial/industrial led with 53.4, followed by mixed practice at 53.0, institutional at 50.9, and multi-family residential at 50.5. Project inquiries were also in positive territory at 59.4, down just slightly from November's 59.6. The National Association of Home Builders is also reporting growth and forecasting greater gains:
Multifamily production, which has posted a 273 percent gain from its fourth quarter trough of 82,000 units in 2009 to 306,000 units in the final quarter of 2012, is expected to reach what is considered a normal level of production by 2014. The single-family market, which has the farthest to go, was running at 44 percent of normal production in the fourth quarter of 2012. Single-family starts are expected to steadily rise to 52 percent of what is considered a typical market by the fourth quarter of this year and 70 percent of normal by the fourth quarter of 2014. NAHB is forecasting 949,000 total housing starts in 2013, up 21.5 percent from 781,000 units last year.
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AIA Billings Report Scores Fourth Month of Gains

A fourth straight month of increased billings by AIA members signals the architectural economy may finally have turned the corner. The Architectural Billings Index (ABI) ticked up to 53.2 from last month's 52.8 (any score above 50 indicates an increase in demand for design services). Project inquiries also rose slightly to 59.6 from 59.4. “These are the strongest business conditions we have seen since the end of 2007 before the construction market collapse,” said AIA chief economist, Kermit Baker. Activity was greatest in the Northeast (56.3) and the Midwest (54.4). The South remained in positive territory at 51.1, while the South dipped into a slight decline at 49.6, down from the previous month's 51.8. The AIA cautioned that the A/E/C sector's growth could be drastically undercut if the country goes off the so-called "fiscal cliff." Uncertainty about spending cuts and tax increases have already put numerous projects on hold.
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Happier Holidays for Architects as Billings Continue to Climb

Heading into the holidays, the AIA has more good economic news to report: the Architectural Billings Index (ABI) has recorded a third straight month of growth. The October score was 52.8, up from September's 51.6 (any score above 50 indicates a growth in billings). The uptick reflects improving conditions in the housing market and real estate more broadly. All four regions were in positive territory, with  the South leading at 52.8, followed by the Northeast at 52.6, the West at 51.8, and the Midwest at 50.8. By sector, multi-family housing performed the strongest (59.2), followed by mixed practice (52.4), and institutional (51.4). The industrial/commercial sector lagged behind in negative territory (48.0) “With three straight monthly gains – and the past two being quite strong – it’s beginning to look like demand for design services has turned the corner,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, said in a statement. Project inquiries also grew, from 57.3 in September to 59.4 in October.
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Spike in Billings Tied to Demand for More Rental Housing

The AIA has released its Architecture Billings Index (ABI) for September, and the news looks good. According to the organization, the ABI score went to 51.6, up from 50.2 in August (any score above 50 reflects an increase in billings). The spike marks the fastest increase in the demand for design services since 2010. The AIA tied the upswing in billings to an increased demand for rental housing. “Going back to the third quarter of 2011, the multi-family residential sector has been the best performing segment of the construction field,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. “With high foreclosure levels in recent years, more stringent mortgage approvals and fewer people in the market to buy homes there has been a surge in demand for rental housing. The upturn in residential activity will hopefully spur more nonresidential construction.” As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. The diffusion indexes contained in the full report are derived from a monthly “Work-on-the-Boards” survey that is sent to a panel of AIA member-owned firms. The organization asks participants whether their billings increased, decreased, or stayed the same in the month that just ended as compared to the prior month, and the results are then compiled into the ABI. Any ABI score above 50 indicates an aggregate increase in billings. Scores below 50 indicate a decline. Here’s how the ABI broke down regionally in September: West (53.4), South (51.9), Northeast (49.5), Midwest (47.2). Here’s how the index broke down by sector: multi-family residential (57.3), institutional (51.0), commercial/industrial (48.4), mixed practice (47.8). The new projects inquiry index—an indicator of client interest in design services—also showed some growth. It came in at 57.3, compared to a mark of 57.2 the previous month.
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Billings Index Still In The Red, But The Decline “Moderated”

The AIA's monthly Architecture Billings Index (ABI) for July came in with a disappointing 48.7 (any score below 50 indicates a decline in billings for design activity). The news was not all bad though. The ABI was up significantly from last month's score of 45.9. “Even though architecture firm billings nationally were down again in July, the downturn moderated substantially,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker. “As long as overall economic conditions continue to show improvement, modest declines should shift over to growth in design activity over the coming months.” At the regional level, the South, a region battered by the Great Recession, was the only area in positive territory, skyrocketing up to a score of 52.7 from the previous month's 47.6. The Midwest clocked in at 46.7, the West lagged with 45.3, and Northeast continued its steady decline to 44.3, the lowest score for that region since February 2010. By sector, multi family residential (51.4) out-paced mixed-practice (49.1), commercial/industrial (48.4), and institutional (46.6). Inquiries rebounded to 56.3, up from last month's 54.4.
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Domesticating the Cathedral of Commerce with Luxe Condos

New York City's nouveau-tall skyscrapers, like the Christian de Portzamparc-designed One57 which recently topped out at 1,004 feet, have been wooing the world's richest residential buyers with unimaginable amenities and floor-to-ceiling glass. But if you interested in an address that redefined tall—one hundred years ago—your options are more limited. Now, developers Alchemy Properties have acquired the top 30 floors of the iconic Woolworth Building in Lower Manhattan, the world's tallest structure when it opened in 1913, with plans to build 40 super-luxury residential units in the sky. The Cass Gilbert-designed Woolworth, dubbed the "Cathedral of Commerce," held the world's tallest designation at 792 feet for a whopping 17 years from 1913 to 1930 when the Chrysler Building took the reigns, and it still holds its own on skyline of Lower Manhattan. The New York Times reports that the first new condos will begin at 350 feet above Broadway and a five-story penthouse in the building's copper-clad crown—once a public observation area—will bring new meaning to majestic living. But then again, the only downside of living in the Woolworth Building might be not having a view of the Woolworth Building. With 40 units distributed over 30 floors, the project may not be increasing the city's density by any appreciable level considering a single luxury residence could hold quite a few micro-apartments currently in discussion for Manhattan's east side. (In fact, AN has estimated that in the same 30 floors, one could likely fit over 600 efficient 250-square foot micro-apartments.) Telescoping floors range in size from 8,000 to 3,500 square feet as the tower rises, but the height won't be the only soaring aspect of the building. According to the Times, unit prices will top $2,000 per square foot, up from a neighborhood average of $1,250 per foot last quarter. If this news is an indicator that the economy of Lower Manhattan has finally, once-and-for-all rebounded, it might not be long until another luxury building rises next door to the Woolworth in a pit slated for an even-taller Robert A.M. Stern-designed hotel and condo tower. Between 1977 and 1981, the Woolworth Building's glazed terra cotta facade underwent a restoration by the Ehrenkrantz Group, when 26,000 damaged pieces of terra cotta were replaced with architectural precast concrete and nearly 40 percent of the entire facade was touched up. While putting together a slideshow of the building past and present, AN uncovered this photo of two steeplejacks precariously clinging to one of the building's four turrets, which reminded us that those turrets have been covered over today. Take a look at more photos of the Woolworth Building in the slideshow below.
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Busted Up: Billings Index Plunges Amid Global Economic Uncertainty

“It’s like déjà vu all over again,” AIA chief economist Kermit Baker said of the steep springtime drop reflected in May’s Architectural Billings Index (ABI). Baker was referring to the trend from 2011, when design activity took a substantial hit after an initially healthy first quarter. “But we don’t want to have a repeat of last year,” he added referring to the sluggish numbers that continued to shadow the profession through the fall. The new numbers were the worst since October and, Baker said, reflect trends in the larger economy. All of the regional sectors took on water, as the overall score went from a low of 48.4 in April to an even lower 45.8 in May (any score below 50 reflects a decrease).  The South was hit the hardest with a drop to 46.1 from 49.0.  The Midwest wasn’t far behind with a deeper dip to 46.8 from 50.1. The ever-lagging West went to 47.6 from 46.6. And the Northeast dropped to 48.6 from 51.0. The sector breakdown saw commercial/industrial stay in positive territory at 50.7, but not as strong as last month’s 53.8. Multi-family residential fell to 48.9 from 50.5, institutional went from to 45.6 from 46.6, and mixed practice went to 41.5 from 45.0. If anything, project inquiries remain something of contiguous silver lining, staying in positive territory for months at a time. May’s score was 54.0, a mild shift from April’s 54.4.  But the reality on the ground belies the inquiry trend. “Last month we were willing to believe it was seasonality,” he said. “But there’s something more than weather related activity; it moved beyond that and it’s not incidental that we had a negative jobs report.” In addition to national issues, like jobs, Baker said that certain international trends that spook the larger market find their way into the ABI. He cited uncertainty in Europe and slowdowns in China and India as outside factors. When asked if the ebb and flow just at the fifty mark was the new normal Baker said that the industry, along with the country, is actually in recovery, albeit a very slow one. He noted that he’s hearing fewer negative reports on getting financing. “I don’t think we peaked out, but I think we’ll see longer term growth,” he said.
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Billings Bucks Upward Trend

For the past five months things were looking up for the Architecture Billings Index. Until now. Granted, the index was merely teetering on the positive side of the spectrum at 50.4 for March (any score above 50 reflects an increase), so it didn’t have far to drop into the negative territory of 48.4 for April. Despite the five-month positive stint, throughout the period AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker urged cautious optimism in what has clearly been a tepid recovery. In a statement released today, he said that the decline in demand for design services is not surprising considering continued volatility in the overall economy. “Favorable conditions during the winter months may have accelerated design billings, producing a pause in projects that have moved ahead faster than expected,” he said. The regional breakdown took the Northeast to the top of the heap with a score of 51.0, down from last months 53.9. Likewise, the Midwest stayed positive at 50.1, but not quite as strong as the previous month’s 54.1. The South dropped into negative territory at 49.0, down from a positive stance at 50.1. Meanwhile, the ever-sluggish West stayed negative at 48.0, not a much of a shift from last month’s 46.6. In the sector breakdown, the commercial/industrial sector, as usual, took the lead with a positive showing of 53.8, a shift from March’s 56.0. Multi-family residential hovered around the edge at 50.5, not far from last month’s 51.9. Institutional stayed negative at 46.6, a slight change from 47.6. Mixed practice also remained low at 45.0, down from 47.2. The new projects inquiry index checked in at 54.4, down from a mark of 56.6 in March.