This year saw changes in firm ownership, the licensure process, and the need for increased diversity among firm ranks. Here's what happened in 2015 and how it will affect the profession in 2016.

More Mergers and Acquisitions

In April, research consulting firm Zweig Group releasedreport that revealed 78 percent of architecture and interiors firms, and 68 percent of all participating firms, stated that their strategic plans for the next five years include either a merger or an acquisition.

"The industry’s structure continues to transform to a more integrated business model," Jamie Claire Kiser, Zweig Group director of merger and acquisitions services told ARCHITECT in an email in April. "The top performers will be those that embrace change and are able to respond quickly, nimbly, and decisively to the evolution of the industry. Consolidation will become increasingly common as firms seek to either serve as a 'one-stop shop' and provide full-service design, building, and engineering services, or seek to specialize and find niche markets to fuel growth, such as green design."

Some of this year's most noteworthy mergers include Callison and RTKL; DLR Group and Sorg Architects; and Ziegler Cooper Architects and Hall Barnum Lucchesi Architects. One of the year's most lucrative acquisitions was HOK's purchase of 360 Architecture, which created a global practice focused on design for sports, recreation, and entertainment.


The Licensure Process is Adapting to New Standards
Aspiring architects should take note that the the path to licensure will change next year. On June 29, 2016, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) will implement an overhaul of the Intern Development Program (IDP), streamlining the current 17 core experience areas into six practice-based categories, spelled out in the 2012 NCARB Practice Analysis of Architecture. NCARB released a map (shown above) this past November to illustrate how the 17 experience areas will merge into the six new categories: practice management; project management; programming and analysis; project planning and design; project development and documentation; and construction and evaluation. The subjects correspond to the six sections to be tested in the Architect Registration Exam (ARE) 5.0, which is expected to launch late next year. 

In perhaps even bigger news, NCARB announced its inaugural class of 14 institutions that will let M.Arch. and B.Arch. students complete IDP requirements and take each division of the ARE before graduation. A committee established by NCARB will guide the selected schools in the implementation process and work with the state registration boards and jurisdictions to ensure that laws and regulations are in place to grant pre-graduation access to the ARE. Each school will implement the restructured program according to the unique schedule established with its administration and faculty. This academic network could grow as NCARB solicits increased participation on an annual basis.

A Greater Awareness of the Need for Diversity Among Firm Ranks
Data shows that diversity in the architectural profession is increasing. Women comprised 38 percent of aspiring architects who completed the IDP in 2014, compared to 25 percent in 2000, according to the 2015 NCARB by the Numbers report. Women also accounted for 35 percent of candidates who completed the ARE in 2014, a percentage that has nearly doubled since 2000. Meanwhile, racial and ethnic minorities comprised 41 percent of aspiring architects in 2014, compared to 22 percent in 2007.

Although the demographics of the industry's professionals are changing, work remains on the promotion of equitable practices in firm culture. Last week, the AIA launched its latest effort to promote diversity in architecture by creating a 22-member task force that will research and develop recommendations for advancing equity in the profession. Other organizations have established initiatives to address the underrepresentation of women and minorities, such as Equity by Design, an AIA San Francisco committee that conducted a survey in 2014 to examine why female architects tend to leave the profession between graduation and licensure. The organization is planning to conduct a second survey in 2016.