New AIA Firm Survey Indicates that While Business is Good, the Profession Itself Changes Slowly
The digital domain
Small- and medium-size firms (49 or fewer employees) that are nimble and can leverage technology will survive and prosper, and may even be competitive with their larger counterparts, yet many are hesitant to make the investment in technology needed to improve productivity and performance. The report states that overall, few firms use BIM software (about 10 percent are using it for billable work), and most of those are the larger firms. According to James P. Cramer, Hon. AIA, chairman and C.E.O. of the Greenway Group, “Medium-size firms are not going to be competitive nor innovative until they invest at least $5,000 per employee in IT, and that means adding BIM purchases right now. It is puzzling to see in the AIA survey that firms spent only an average of $2,700 per employee on IT expenses.”
Web sites are an essential practice tool for recruiting staff, marketing, public relations, linking branch offices, and communicating with clients [see Practice Matters, record, February 2007, page 57]. One curious finding, noted by Cramer, is that a whopping 40 percent of the firms that replied to the survey do not have Web sites.
It’s not easy being green
By any definition today, an excellent building design must include a range of green, sustainable, and environmentally sensitive attributes. The trend is only now catching on, since only about one third of all nonresidential projects initiated in 2005 had “green features.” And a mere quarter of firms designing projects in the residential sector characterized them as green. On average, 13 percent of firms have LEED-certified specialists.
Sustainable design goes to the heart of our social and environmental responsibilities as professionals.
One of the challenges that architects face is convincing some clients that excellent (or even good) building performance should be a priority and an integral part of the design process from a project’s inception. The data in the AIA firm survey may, however, be a great resource to assist in developing a persuasive argument for promoting the trend in green design.