Firm Leaders Reinvest and Expand Businesses as Profitability Increases

U.S. architecture firms have experienced a near complete recovery from the Great Recession, which has allowed firm leaders to reinvest profits back into their businesses. These findings, along with an in depth look at topics such as firm billings, staffing, and international work, are covered in the “The Business of Architecture: 2016 Firm Survey Report”.  The report offers metrics that provide insights into how architecture firms are operating and is available for purchase here.

“More than at any point in recent memory, there has been 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, PhD.  “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.”

Key highlights:

  • Net billings at architecture firms were $28.5 billion at the peak of the market in 2008 and had nearly recovered to $28.4 billion by 2015.
  • Percentage of firms reporting a financial loss declined sharply in recent years from more than 20 percent in 2011 to fewer than 10 percent by 2015.
  • Growing profitability has allowed firms to increase their marketing activities and expand into new geographical areas and building types to diversify their design portfolios.
  • Renovations made up a large portion of design work with 45 percent of building design billings coming from work on existing facilities, including 30 percent from additions to buildings, and the remaining from historic preservation projects.
  • Billings in the residential sector topped $7 billion, more than 30 percent over 2013 levels.
  • Modest gains in diversity of profession with women now comprising 31 percent of architecture staff (up from 28 percent in 2013) and minorities making up 21 percent of staff (up from 20 percent in 2013).
  • Use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) software has become standard at larger firms with 96 percent of firms with 50 or more employees report using it for billable work (compared to 72 percent of mid-sized firms and 28 percent of small firms).
  • Newer technologies including 3D printing and 4D/5D modeling are reported being used at only 11 percent and 8 percent of firms respectively.
  • Energy modeling currently has a low adoption rate with 13 percent of firms using it for billable work, although this share jumps to 59 percent for large firms.

“From a practice standpoint, digital modeling is firmly entrenched in the early phase of design work and expanding into subsequent phases, with the potential for more involvement for architects through the construction and facility management processes,” said AIA senior director of research, Michele Russo. “In the coming years we expect firms will be adding technological dimensions to their design work through more utilization of cloud computing, 3D printing and the use of virtual reality software. This should help further efficiencies, minimize waste and project delivery delays, and lead to increased bottom line outcomes for their clients.”

Pentair Launches Heat-tracing Content Add-in for BIM Software

A provider of industrial heat-tracing systems, Pentair’s Thermal Building Solutions, has launched a software add-in for the Autodesk Revit platform. Trace-It 1.1 is a comprehensive suite of new tools, available for free download that allows users to easily incorporate heat-tracing content into their BIM (Building Information Modeling) models. This optimizes efficiencies and performance, saving time for designers and lowering costs for building owners.

Raychem Trace-It 1.1 allows for graphical placement of controls and connectors for visual space planning to help select the optimal Raychem product for the application. The new tools offers a more accurate bill of materials for a wider and more complex range of pipe networks than the original version, further simplifying project planning and installations to significantly reduce raw materials. In an effort to best tailor the software to each user, the upgrade version also allows customers to open customized specifications, create a Revit schedule or place critical Revit families into their project.

Last year, Pentair introduced BIM content for heat-tracing solutions, including BIM families and the dynamic Raychem Trace-It Revit add-in for winter safety applications and hot-water maintenance. In addition to the add-in, Pentair developed a group of families for ramp heating and surface snow melting, and roof and gutter de-icing. Each family includes design guides and product information to assist with the design of the heat-tracing system.

“As a pioneer in the global heat-tracing industry, we believe it’s important to assist our customer base with platforms that can bring ideas from concept to construction, comments Steve Peck, marketing manager for Pentair’s Thermal Building Solutions division. We continuously try to develop the tools and products our customers need to make their projects run up as smoothly as possible. Our new Trace-It upgrade offers a range of additional functions that do just that.”

National Institute of Building Sciences to Conduct Hearing on Productivity and the Workforce

The U.S. building industry is under increasing pressure to deliver high-performance buildings to meet the needs of owners, occupants and government. Owners and contractors are looking for opportunities to improve certainty in schedule, performance and cost while managing risks. At the same time, there is an increasing concern from multiple segments of the industry on the availability of a skilled workforce, as well as the productivity of the buildings workforce today and into the future. In recognition of the impact the productivity and availability of a strong workforce has on all aspects of the building industry, the National Institute of Building Sciences will conduct a representative hearing on productivity and the workforce on Sept. 25, 2015, at the organization’s headquarters at 1090 Vermont Ave., NW, Suite 700, in Washington, D.C.

Efforts are underway on a variety of fronts to address productivity challenges, including the expansion of off-site construction techniques; development of enhanced tools and processes, such as building information modeling (BIM); enhancing mid- to long-term forecasts of workforce needs; and attracting new, technology-savvy entrants to the workforce through development of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education programs.

The hearing, which is open to anyone interested in attending, will provide an opportunity for representatives from the planning, design, construction, operations, ownership, finance, insurance, regulatory, manufacturing, academia and other segments of the U.S. building industry to speak about the challenges they face and offer potential solutions. The institute is particularly interested in receiving testimony from organizations that have moved beyond traditional approaches to address needs related to advancements in productivity, safety and project certainty. Case studies, best practices and data on the benefits of such approaches are encouraged.

Presiding over the hearing will be Dorothy Robyn, Past Commissioner, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration; Institute president Henry L. Green, Hon. AIA; and Charles L. Greco, president of the Associated General Contractors of America and chairman of Linbeck. Sue Klawans, past Institute board member and director of Operational Excellence and Planning at Gilbane Building Co., is serving as an industry advisor for development of the hearing and resultant outputs.

Written and oral testimony will be accepted from all interested parties. The testimony the Institute receives will inform the development of a strategic vision to help the industry overcome the challenges posed by business as usual. The vision and accompanying principles and practices are intended to provide the industry as a whole, and individual participants, with a path forward to advance productivity and address workforce challenges. Results will inform activities within the Institute, including discussions during the Institute’s Annual Conference, Building Innovation 2016; development of the 2015 Consultative Council’s Moving Forward Report; and activities of the various Institute councils and committees.

Parties interested in providing oral testimony must notify the Institute of their intent by Sept. 1, 2015, at 5 p.m. EDT. To view the procedures for submitting oral and written testimony, download the Guidelines and Procedures for Submitting Comments to the Representative Hearing on Productivity and the Workforce.

Valspar Offers BIM Material Library for Exterior Coatings

Valspar offers Autodesk Revit BIM material library for its Fluropon 70 percent PVDF resin-based coatings.

Valspar offers Autodesk Revit BIM material library for its Fluropon 70 percent PVDF resin-based coatings.

The Valspar Corp. continues to enhance creative choices and simplify architectural coating specifications by adding color-accurate, building information modeling (BIM) tools to Autodesk Revit software for its Fluropon 70 percent PVDF resin-based coatings. With its high durability and large color palette, Valspar’s Fluropon exterior coatings have been used for metal coil coating and aluminum extrusion applications since its launch in 1965.

“For more than 200 years, Valspar has helped people connect to the power of color. For the last 50 years, architects and design professionals have relied on our Fluropon products to protect their commercial buildings’ exteriors. We are excited to offer our proven products with Revit’s software for convenience in previewing color selections on their buildings’ designs,” says Jeff Alexander, vice president of sales for Valspar’s global coil and extrusion businesses.

Once Valspar’s Fluropon material library has been loaded into a Revit model, the Fluropon colors are ready to select by using the “Paint” tool on a variety of architectural building products exterior metal surfaces. Valspar’s Fluropon material library in Revit is built around accurate Valspar color palettes to ensure consistency in both the virtual and real world. After selecting final colors, Revit users have the option to order physical color samples by visiting Valspar’s architectural website and referencing the product code listed next to the color name within the material library. Alexander continues: “Color can bring a design to life. Now, it’s easier than ever before. With our BIM tools and a few clicks of a button, you can see how yellow curtainwall framing contrasts with a blue wall panel system, how a white metal roof matches the skylight framing, or how bright purple window framing pops next to a red entrance system.”

For easy access to every color, download and store the Autodesk Library file on a local machine, or centrally on a server for a larger project team, and load it right into the Revit model for easy access. Users may import favorite colors or entire color families and palettes, to meet their specific project needs.

Meeting the American Architectural Manufacturers Association’s AAMA 2605 high-performance exterior specification, Fluropon demonstrates reliable performance including resistance to harmful ultraviolet rays, chemical degradation, abrasion and humidity. These field-proven, high-performance, 70 percent PVDF resin-based coatings are offered in two- to four-coat systems in nearly any formulation, including low gloss, low sheen and solar reflective ENERGY STAR. A wide variety of colors also are available, from neutral to bright colors, micas, metallic and pearlescent coatings.