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Recovery Reshapes Architect Firms

Friday, October 10, 2014

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Business for U.S. architects has recovered to pre-recession levels, creating a new profile for the profession in the process, a new report suggests.

As the construction industry continues to improve, architects report design activity is up, revenue levels are stabilizing, and billings have increased 20 percent from 2011, according to the American Institute of Architect’s “The Business of Architecture: 2014 AIA Firm Survey Report.”

Firm survey

Long in recovery mode, U.S. architects have reached positive territory in billings and profits, the report says.

The 88-page report is available for purchase here.

The report focuses on firm and staff profiles, firm billings, construction sectors served, project management and delivery, and international work.

The downturn affected the “overall organization” of the profession, the report said.  

Firm Size Changes

Architecture firms have become smaller and younger: 43 percent have been founded since the year 2000, with one-third of those firms founded since 2010, the AIA reports.

New firms will continue to emerge over the next few years, the report said.

©iStock / tetmc

As larger firms downsized in the downturn, many professionals started their own businesses or partnerships, the report said.

Meanwhile, firm consolidation and growth may also factor in the coming years as the profession attempts to recover from the fragmentation that took place during the recession, the report noted.

Activity by Sector

In terms of the increased design activity, renovations of existing facilities accounted for a larger share of design activity in 2013 than during the last construction boom, the report related.

For 2013, architecture firms reported that 44 percent of their gross billings for construction-related services came from renovation work, according to the report.

Architects also reported that even with most of the institutional building category remaining in recession in 2013, this sector generated half of the billings at design firms.

public school gym
©iStock / piovesempre

Education facilities accounted for 21 percent of overall billings for 2013, according to the report.

Within the institutional category, education facilities accounted for 21 percent of overall billings, followed by healthcare, accounting for more than 12 percent.

Firms that traditionally focused on the residential sector have seen strong growth in billings, the report said. Design of multifamily residential units accounted for half of residential billings among those firms.

Other Highlights

AIA also noted these highlights:

  • Nearly two-thirds of large firms worked on international projects in 2013;
  • Over a third of architecture firms nationally—and virtually all larger firms—are using some form of BIM for billable projects;
  • 12 percent of firms are using energy modeling software for billable projects; and
  • 21 percent of firms have worked on one or more projects that incorporate resilient design strategies.

More information: AIA.


Tagged categories: American Institute of Architects (AIA); Architects; Architecture; Business conditions; Good Technical Practice; Industry surveys; North America; Research

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