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Survey: Architects Back in the Black

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

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According to a new survey from the American Institute of Architects, the architecture industry in the U.S. has nearly fully recovered from the recent recession, and firms have been able to reinvest profits into things like marketing and expansion.

The AIA’s annual report, The Business of Architecture: 2016 Firm Survey Report, also shows that large firms, hit hardest by the economic downturn that began in 2008, have made a recovery, and are taking on work at numbers close to pre-recession levels.

Construction Spending, Architectural Billing Up

Spending on nonresidential construction grew at its fastest rate since 2007, the AIA notes, citing U.S. Census Bureau numbers.

The total spent on noncommercial construction reached $450 billion in 2015, a 15.8 percent jump from the previous year, but shy of pre-recession 2007 and 2008 peaks. The figure was a dramatic improvement from the past six years’ numbers, according to the report.

Architect
© iStock.com / LDProd

Net billings at AIA-affiliated architecture firms were at $28.4 billion in 2015, just short of the recent peak of $28.5 billion, recorded in 2008.

Similarly, net billings at AIA-affiliated architecture firms were at $28.4 billion in 2015, just short of the recent peak of $28.5 billion, recorded in 2008, just before the market crashed.

The AIA notes in its report that its Architectural Billing Index has remained positive during the first half of 2016, concluding that “there is reason for optimism that construction activity will continue to grow in the quarters ahead.”

“Far more than at any point in recent memory, there has been steady rise in the amount of renovation projects that architects have led compared to new construction activity over the past decade plus,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, Ph.D.  “A lot this has to do with green building incentives towards renovations, improved construction methods and products that increase the longevity of buildings, and a slower growing population that reduces the need for new construction.”

Large Firms Recovering

In the report, AIA notes that larger firms tend to be hit harder by economic hardship, as larger projects are often put on hold; this is borne out by the association’s numbers, which show that large firms (of 50 or more employees) were taking 51.9 percent of billings in 2005, before the crash, but only 44.9 percent in 2013.

Nonresidential construction spending
U.S. Census Bureau statistics, chart: AIA

The total spent on noncommercial construction reached $450 billion in 2015, a 15.8 percent jump from the previous year.

In 2015, large firms’ share of the market was back to 51.3 percent, approaching pre-recession numbers.

Firms of over 50 employees make up 5.1 percent of all AIA-associated firms in the country, according to the report, but comprise 47 percent of all architectural staff. Small firms of one to nine employees make up 77.3 percent of all firms, but only 20.7 percent of all staff, and 15.4 percent of all billings, as of 2015.

Profits Back Up

More firms throughout the industry are turning a profit, according to the new AIA numbers. In 2015, 21.5 percent of firms were “very profitable,” turning a profit of more than 20 percent (after compensation, but before taxes, discretionary bonuses and profit-sharing). That’s up from 13.4 percent in 2011.

On the flip side, firms operating at a loss are down by nearly half since 2011. That year, 19.2 percent of firms were bringing in less than they spent; in 2015, only 9.7 percent were.

Women, Minorities on the Rise

AIA also notes in the report an upward trend among women and minorities in the field. In 2015, 31 percent of all U.S. architects (and 20 percent of all principals) were women, up from 26 percent (and 16 percent of principals) a decade ago.

Minorities—in this case defined essentially as nonwhite individuals—made up 21 percent of all architects in 2015, up from 16 percent in 2005. About 11 percent of all principals are minorities, a rate that has largely remained flat since 2008, and is up from 8 percent in 2005.

The report also discusses the growth of the use of Building Information Modeling software, technologies such as 3D printing and 4D and 5D modeling, and energy modeling.

The full report is available for purchase, for AIA members and nonmembers alike, at the association’s website.

   

Tagged categories: American Institute of Architects (AIA); Architects; Business matters; Economy; Market; Market trends

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