Architecture Firms are Feeling the Pinch, Which Forecasts Trouble Ahead

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Robison Wells
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Even though construction is still mostly operating at capacity, architectural firms—particularly those that work on public works projects—are getting squeezed by the poor economy, and that predicts few construction projects down the pipeline.

According to a study conducted by the American Institute of Architects, of 387 firms, there is a great deal of worry and uncertainty about the future. Two thirds of the firms said that many projects had completely stopped or slowed down because of the COVID-19 outbreak, and 94% said they expect their revenue to take a hit.

Some firms are already making hard decisions, furloughing workers and slashing pay. One of the most prominent architectural firms in the world, Foster + Partners, announced that 1400 of its employees would be taking a 20% pay cut for the next three months. But work is worse for the small businesses, which account for the vast majority of architecture firms. Small businesses have been hit particularly hard by the economic effects of the virus.

“The length, intensity, and uncertainty of this crisis will impact both the funding of and the opportunity for construction,” said Dan Hart, the AIA director at large. “Gainful employment for architects is positively affected by shortening the impact of the crisis, flattening the infection curves, and introducing more certainty in containing the spread of the virus.”

AIA CEO Robert Ivy said that it’s essential for the government to support architecture and construction projects: “To jump-start the economy and bring architects and the critical design and construction economy back to life, we are strongly advocating for ‘vertical’ infrastructure, buildings, to be included in any additional stimulus bill. The nation needs housing, healthcare, and health-related research facilities (a clear need at this time), and schools. Architecture can and should create facilities that allow us to grow and heal, stimulating the larger economy while creating safer, more healthful places.”

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