The 2014 AIA Firm Survey Report, released in September, charts how architecture firms have adapted to the shifting economic climate. Here are five key metrics that show how the profession has (or hasn’t) changed since the downturn. Purchase the full report here.
1. One-Stop Shops Are On The Rise
In the wake of the recession, firms have increasingly positioned themselves as multidisciplinary practices, offering architecture as the main discipline but also making available other in-house services, such as engineering, design/build, or planning. In 2013, 40 percent of firms classified themselves as multidiscplinary, a rise of 11 percentage points from 2005.
2. Architects Are Still Getting Squeezed
Even post-recession, firms have continued to rely on the use of stipulated-sum (fixed-fee) payments for projects. The share of firms relying on such payments rose from 36 percent in 2011 to 38.1 percent in 2013.
3. A Few Big Firms Dominate International Markets
Just 12 percent of firms reported that they had international projects in 2013, and the majority of those firms had 50 or more employees. An additional 19 percent of firms reported that they have had international work in the last three years or were actively pursuing it.
International work accounted for 5.5 percent of total gross firm billings in 2013, down from 6.8 percent in 2008, due in part to the recession. Nevertheless, total gross billings at all U.S. architecture firms from international work doubled over the past decade, from an estimated $765 million in 2002 to $1.7 billion in 2013. The Middle East and North Africa—followed closely by China—were the most popular regions for projects.
4. Women and Minorities Are Making Inroads
Racial and ethnic minorities made large gains in the last decade, and now represent about 20 percent of staff at firms, an increase of 4 percent from 2005. The percentage of minority licensed architects also witnessed a nice bump. Women also made inroads at firms, especially among licensed architects: 26 percent are women, versus 20 percent in 2005. But the percentage of women principals and partners only ticked up slightly.
MINORITY AND WOMAN STAFF MAKE GAINS AT ARCHITECTURE FIRMS
5. Performance Must Improve
The numbers weren’t great when it came to energy modeling. Twelve percent of firms were using the software for projects in 2013, with another 6 percent owning it but not yet using it for billable work. More than 60 percent of firms had no plans to acquire any software.
The numbers relating to resilient design also left something to be desired. Firms reported that 16.5 percent of nonresidential projects and 15.4 percent of residential projects incorporated resilient design characteristics.