However, despite this uncertainty, the report revealed a surprising willingness to invest in technology, training and people in the midst of the slowdown. Although business is in a state of flux, architects and engineers are determined to lay firm foundations for sustainable growth when the downturn ends.
A decisive 75% of respondents to a survey which made up part of the report said they are planning capital expenditure over the next 18 months to enable them to work more efficiently. To consolidate this, 75% said that they would include training in this investment.
Thriving in 2010 and Beyond – a Practical Guide for Architects and Engineers, was researched by Unwired, written by former Architects’ Journal editor, Ruth Slavid, and commissioned by Deltek. It was compiled using a mix of survey data, comments from architects and engineers who are experiencing life and work in the recession-hit sector and the knowledge of the key industry spokespeople who make up the report’s advisory panel.
In total, the report paints a picture of a sector still in shock after the punishing economic conditions of 2009 and still unsure as to how a new post-boom era will pan out – and where its opportunities lay. No wonder 90% thought existing practices would need to be more agile to survive – and business skills were rated as more important as design skills in defining the qualities of a top professional. “The rules have fundamentally changed. I don’t know what the new rules will be,” says one senior industry figure talking about planning and the commercial market. And, his comments appear to ring true for the entire community.
Some 32% of respondents thought that refurbishment projects, bringing old buildings up to current environmental standards could be a major source of future work for their practice. And the continuing globalisation of the industry was emphasised by the fact that 75% thought it was either ‘essential’ or ‘quite important’ to work internationally to survive.
There was some optimism about the housing sector with 35.5% thinking that it would need to grow in some way because of the pressure of housing shortages. However, the promise of the infrastructure boom appears to have been shortlived in view of public spending cuts, with only 10% thinking current volumes of work would increase.
However, there were encouraging signs that the community will be using this time to invest in the latest technology and improve skills – in fact only 13% said that they would NOT be investing in new technology this year.
Top of the list was new design and documentation software – with 71% making this a priority, probably due to the increasing need for Building Information Modelling (BIM) which involves all members of a project team working on a single virtual model.
However, equally remarkable was the 58% planning to invest in business information systems. Plus, as 88% thought that the real-time project information these would provide could prove invaluable to their operations, it can be deduced that this figure will increase when further budget becomes available.
“It’s clear that architects and engineers are doing the sensible thing and taking a long hard look at what they can do to improve the way they work. When work was abundant there was neither the time nor the inclination to do this. Now, however, they are considering every means there is to become more competitive,” says Marcus Leathwood of Deltek.