25 Trends Transforming Architecture and Design

DesignIntelligence identified the factors most likely to shape the present and near future for architects

With the input of 40 influential thought leaders in design professions, 25 factors likely to shape the present and near future for architects are named in 2010: A Year of Convalescence.


The report is featured in DesignIntelligence, which is the Design Futures Council’s bi-monthly report on the future.


1. Sustainability drives design.

Look for more owners to seek repurposing or rehabilitation of existing building stock.


2. New strategic models spell game change.

Banking restrictions and cash-strapped clients are prompting firms to seek diversified and creative business strategies: the addition of services, specialization in one or more markets, brand differentiation, and a more discerning eye on go/no-go decisions. More firms will contract in size, seeking to be compact but solid in the eye of the storm.


3. Integrated practice and integrated project delivery grow stronger.

Process improvements, such as Lean project delivery, and the increased use of integrated delivery methods remain favored tactics. Expect integrated project delivery to gain traction as a viable, preferred process. There’s a move toward using a single technology platform to enable all disciplines to work simultaneously and interactively.


4. The BIM revolution becomes practical evolution.
Firms will deepen their technical knowledge and begin adding additional integrative components into their models. Clients will expect such models as part of the deliverables, and firms can benefit from this demand by using models to curate the environments they have built, serving as facility managers after projects are complete.


5. Architects still matter.

Good design isn’t going away simply because there are fewer projects and tighter budgets. High-quality work and the desire for signature buildings remain important to clients.


6. Global practice can satisfy the need to diversify business plans.

The desire to go global isn’t prompted by vanity but by the practical need to diversify. The relative ease of travel and the progress of technology have aided this trend. As domestic demand has been squeezed, the need to compete globally has become clear.


7. Get used to tight budgets and shallow profit pools.

Tight credit markets and reduced tax revenues mean that the market for design services will continue to shrink in nearly half of the market sectors. The real concern for firm leaders is the stark reality that there’s virtually no new private-sector commercial design work for months ahead.


8. Will there be another lost generation of talent?

The recession of the early 1990s found many young architects and engineers cast out of their profession. We’re seeing a similar phenomenon today as recent architecture grads are forced to seek work wherever they can find it.


9. Technology spending won’t stop.

Computers have to be replaced with faster models capable of running the latest software. Around the corner for architects are holograms, artificial intelligence, and semblances of so-called singularity.


10. Collaboration builds value.

Interdisciplinary teams are expected to come together earlier in the process. A focus on creating new strategic collaborative relationships will serve firms well, allowing them to expand into new geographic and market territories. New business and practice structures will unfold.


11. Learn how to give even more services and experiences for the money.

The need to move to value-driven services instead of the default of hourly billings is clear. But, too, traditional architectural services are being commoditized, which drives design firms to find new ways to add value. Clients want more for their money – more building, more design, and more efficiency.


12. Will contractors eat architects’ lunch?

An increase in design-construction packages has some firm leaders wringing their hands. Contractors are dominating design-build, and they’re aggressively growing in-house design services. In the shift from design-bid-build to alternative delivery forms, some architects and engineers will find their roles reduced.


13. Metrics matter more than ever.

The ability to measure and verify performance will give firms a leg up. Using 4D technology to create realistic computer renderings, architects have the ability to study multiple design options in a fraction of the time it once took. As for internal communications on business matters, most firms will install sophisticated dashboards that show metrics at a glance and allow for policy decisions informed by clear and timely feedback.


14. Fee pressure won’t be letting up anytime soon.

Not only are clients demanding more for their dollars, but they also continue to put the squeeze on design firms in terms of how much they want to pay. This combination of wanting more but desiring to pay less will drive some firms to the brink. But others will rise to the challenge, getting ever more creative in their service offerings, branding, value creation, efficiency, and strategic focus.


15. Rewrite the employment contract.

Young graduates don’t necessarily find jobs in their field, mid-career professionals don’t necessarily receive raises, and partners don’t necessarily merit bonuses. Employment and compensation strategies are up for review and revision. The replacement of some full-time technical employees with contract or outsourced workers is one outgrowth.


16. Architecture becomes increasingly accountable to society.

The Make It Right Foundation in New Orleans and projects like Freedom by Design by the American Institute of Architecture Students illuminate the impact design can have on creating a better world. High-exposure projects will educate the public about the built environment and the potential of design beyond aesthetics.


17. Demand for affordable housing increases.

Conspicuous consumption is out, and sustainable lifestyles are in. But we’re not going to feel deprived by our economic restraint. Design’s value will steadily expand.


18. Evidence-based design has increasing impact.

A need for safety and a burgeoning demand for accountability have propelled evidence-based design in the healthcare sector. With this taste of success on designers’ lips, they will increasingly seek and be asked to seek data on the impact of design in other milieus.


19. Mixed-use development will again be on the rise.

Driven by non-traditional retail developments and a demand for elder housing, mixed-use projects will spread. Mixed-use experts will become sought-after gurus, and planning professionals will come into prominence as policy advisors and solution form-givers.


20. Focus on project management and delivery.

Clients will ask for compressed project timeframes, and firms will respond with closely managed projects that waste little in terms of schedule, cost, or deliverables. Leading firms will understand that speed isn’t necessarily the enemy of quality – faster is often better. Using new technologies and management techniques, firms will find ways of greatly accelerating the pace of the design and delivery process.


21. Understand risk in order to calculate it.

Strategic optimists will point to myriad opportunities that still exist due to increases in bids coming in at 30-percent under or over budget, to the rise in change orders, and to the growth of liability claims as reasons for better leadership, better technology, and better risk management.


22. Energy expertise is a skill you’ll need.

Energy modeling will mature. Since buildings are a source of huge waste and inefficiency, experts will be sought to offer advice. Ninety-nine (99) percent of the built environment already exists in North America. So, although 2010’s new buildings will be designed for energy efficiency, special attention will be given to the 99 percent that already exist. Architects and engineers will flood this space as the de facto renovation and energy experts.


23. Recognize water as a precious commodity.

As with energy, water will become an area of greater concern to designers, who will be tasked with optimizing water use in all ways.


24. Learn to count in carbons.

How big is your project’s carbon footprint? You’ll need to know this to satisfy clients. Like water, carbon should be measured and monetized in real estate planning.


25. Pay attention to the three Ps.

People, planet, and profit. How do people feel when they walk through a space? How does the emotional component of a building affect efficiency and productivity? Can the experience of a mixed-use environment drive higher valuations? Can evidence-based design’s value be communicated so that people, the environment, and sustainable profit coexist?