Michael Kirkham

Published by the AIA since 1920, The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice is considered the definitive source for practice information. However, the 1,000-page tome has generally not been seen as incredibly timely, nor relevant, for both small and large firms alike. All that changes with the Handbook’s 15th edition, published this year.

Two-thirds of the 15th edition’s content is completely new, reflecting the current state of practice and looking ahead to emerging trends. Over 90 percent of the 15th edition’s authors are new contributors—all of them experts in their topic areas. Many of these authors are sea­soned practitioners, sharing insight sourced from personal practice experience. Overall, they represent a diverse group that is reflective of the profession as a whole.

More Content for Smaller Firms
All authors in the 15th edition were encouraged to help readers apply general information and recommendations to the context of smaller-sized practices. To supplement information that might apply only to larger firms, authors from small and midsized firms were asked to write about their experiences. As a result, many articles include addenda, called “Backgrounders,” which often contain targeted knowledge and best practices directly applicable to architects who practice in small and midsized firms.

For instance, are you wondering whether to transition your firm to using BIM technology? You can find the answers you need in the Handbook. The article “Small Firms, Small Projects and Building Information Modeling” provides insight into the pros and cons, transition process, and impact on workflow implicit in using BIM technology.

Interested in knowing how architect-led design/build might apply to your practice? Read “Architect-Led Design-Build and Architect as Construction Manager for Small Projects and Small Firms.” It explains how alternative ways to deliver projects can expand your service model and help you make more money.

You might think that only large firms can have multiple offices. Not true. “Developing and Managing a Mid-sized Multi-office Firm” describes a 40- to 50-person firm with offices in Vancouver, B.C., and Seattle, adding an international component to the challenges and opportunities of a multi-office firm. Providing a case study of their experience, the firm’s leaders discuss lessons learned in managing multiple offices.

Other emerging ways to practice in smaller firms are also highlighted. “Research and Small Firm Practice” discusses how design exploration and knowledge creation can invigorate and enhance the capabilities of small firms as well as how research might be funded in a small-firm context. “Small-Firm Collaboration” explores ways that small firms acquire and deliver work, describing best practices and collaborative structures, while highlighting case studies.

For the first time the Handbook devotes an entire chapter to technology management and introduces a number of other new chapters: “Diversity and Demographics,” “Career Development,” “Public Interest Design,” and “Research in Practice.”

Twenty-first century business realities require entrepreneurial architects to develop skill in business management. The sections on organizational development, marketing, finance, and human resources contain articles that demystify concepts and introduce firm leaders to best practices in each management arena. Articles on topics such as ownership transition, leadership effectiveness, and the legal context of practice provide information and knowledge vital to firms of all sizes.

Learn more about The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice, 15th ed., at aia.org/practicing.