Building design revenue topped $28 billion in 2015


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, free to media, offers metrics that provide insights into how architecture firms are operating and is available for purchase here.

“Far more than at any point in recent memory, there has been steady 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 include:

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

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