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Focus - Opportunities are up in architecture

image Michael Malone, FAIA Past President, Texas Society of Architects, Austin, TX

AUSTIN - How would you describe the state of the construction industry in general terms? It’s wonderful! The level of activity and optimism is fueling tremendous opportunities.

 

 

 

 

 

Has the architectural industry seen an increase in business or a slowdown?
    There’s a palpable increase since the recession, and it’s understandable in terms of increased projects, challenges finding qualified staff in a strong job market and the ability to build backlog and security.

What factors are driving this increase?

    For our firm and clients, the primary driver seems to be the attractiveness of Texas, and Dallas specifically.  The continued influx of people has created opportunities for growth in virtually every sector of professional services.

How has this increase affected the industry and how you conduct business?
    It has allowed us to expand our staff, offer them better benefits and upgrade our office environment and technology.  It has made us more selective about the work we undertake, demonstrated in more appropriate fees and more satisfactory business relationships.

What are the “hot button” issues in your industry?
    With all of this growth, there are negatives: lack of available qualified staff, higher construction costs and the impact on the environment and quality of life this much building represents.

What have been the major changes in the architectural industry in recent years?
    The continuing impact of technology in the way we practice and the inherent ways it allows services to be commoditized are the main changes we see. This has been an ongoing issue, and we don’t know yet if the result is less thoughtful and less-carefully made buildings.
What is the most significant challenge your industry faces?
    I believe it’s the commoditization of professional services, the idea that everyone does the same thing and offers the same product. Differentiating yourself and your firm in the present environment is very challenging but increasingly necessary.

What are the costs increases related to your industry?
    Salaries go up in strong construction markets, but beyond that, the largest costs continue to be in the areas of staff support and benefits.

How are you dealing with these challenges?
    As a firm, we’re committed to a certain level of salary and reasonably generous benefits for all our staff.  We build our business plan for the year with these costs (and associated overhead) as the basis for what we need to do and how we need to perform. Once we know we have these costs covered, we’re able to plan for profitability and additional expenses. We invest heavily in technology when we’re busy knowing we can’t afford this when times are leaner.

What changes are on the horizon for your industry?

    We’re always sensitive to changes in the economy and ready for it to retrench or slow down.  Regardless, we feel certain Texas will do as well or better than the rest of the country, and that gives us comfort.
    We do wish the state were more focused on issues of educational quality and appropriately funding it for the long-term benefits it promises. We see this lack of coherent educational policy and the disparities in funding and outcomes as a potential long-term issue for the state, perhaps the greatest issue.

What is rewarding about working in your industry?

    Creating the built environment is a gift and a privilege.  To work with clients and contractors to create and build something is the most rewarding thing in the world.

    The Texas Society of Architects, with 15 regional chapters and 7,000 members, is one of the nation’s largest organizations for the architectural profession. It is headquartered in Austin. - ke


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Kim Estes austineditor@constructionnews.net