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Architecture Billings Index rises in August

The American Institute of Architects Latest from The Business Journals Architecture index back in black, reverse surprises economistArchitecture index back in black, reverse surprises economist Ripken bringing his baseball ‘Experience’ to local youth Follow this company ’ Architecture Billings Index rose in August after four straight monthly declines.

The national index was 51.4 in August, following a very weak score of 45.1 in July. Any number above 50 indicates an increase in billings. The new projects inquiry index, which represents the number of inquiries from clients about new projects, was 56.9, a sharp increase over the 53.7 posted in July.

“Based on the poor economic conditions over the last several months, this turnaround in demand for design services is a surprise,” said the AIA’s chief economist, Kermit Baker, in a news release. “Many firms are still struggling and continue to report that clients are having difficulty getting financing for viable projects, but it’s possible we’ve reached the bottom of the down cycle.”

The regional billings indexes for August were 49.0 in the Midwest, 47.4 in the South, 47.4 in the West and 46.5 in the Northeast.

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US architects salaries stagnant, AIA survey finds

Latest US billings index and employment figures also gloomy

US architects’ pay is “stagnant,” according to a new American Institute of Architects (AIA) survey.

The average salary for senior design or project management staff is $94,900 (£58,773), compared with $98,800 in 2008 and $85,800 in 2005.

The average salary for architects/designers is $71,600, unchanged from three years ago but up from $57,700 in 2005, the survey found.

AIA chief economist Kermit Baker said: “In addition to reducing benefits offered to employees, architecture firms have been faced with devastating conditions and had to make difficult reductions in expenses. Salary freezes or reductions, scaled-back hours, the conversion of full-time to part-time or contract employees and mandatory furloughs have all taken a toll on the compensation of architects.”

The AIA noted that the architecture profession had been “hit especially hard” as the construction industry continued to suffer the effects of the prolonged economic downturn.

The survey comes on the back of disappointing employment figures in the States. The construction industry added 24,000 jobs nationally in the first three months of the year – the first quarterly gain since 2006 – before returning to contraction by losing 9,000 jobs overall in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, the latest architecture billings index showed a fall for the third month in a row, reversing nearly all of the improvement generated during late 2010 and spring 2011 when there were five straight months of positive conditions.

Source: BD Online.co.uk

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Recession, Stage II

While the economy has stabilized in some regards, architects are still suffering.

Just when it seemed that the architecture industry might be pulling out of its tailspin, some key economic indicators are suggesting that a recovery might take longer than expected.

The Architecture Billings Index, a measure of the industry’s health compiled by the American Institute of Architects, has dipped below 50 for three consecutive months, posting scores of 47.6 (April), 47.2 (May), and 46.3 (June). Those dips came after five straight months of the ABI hovering at or above 50, a sign of increased activity.

Moreover, Engineering News-Record’s Construction Industry Confidence Index—based on surveys sent to contractors, subcontractors, engineers and architects—fell five points in the second quarter of 2011, from 51 to 46.

That data doesn’t surprise architect Charles Dalluge of the Omaha-based firm Leo A. Daly, which has 31 offices around the world. Even though some architects were publicly predicting that “it would be heaven in 2011,” he says, a lot of firms are still suffering.

And he might know. In June, his firm laid off 50 employees from various offices, including architects and engineers. Dalluge defends the move as part of a “strategic repositioning” that will result in the hiring of 50 workers with specialties in areas of growth, such as healthcare. The firm now has 900 employees. 

But even a healthcare focus may not be enough to keep some firms alive. In June, Karlsberger, a Columbus, Ohio-based healthcare-focused firm, closed after 83 years in business. None of the firm’s managers would comment on the shuttering, which is believed to have resulted in 40 job cuts. A statement on its website, however, blamed the state of the market for its woes. “Our level of revenues are insufficient for us to meet our ongoing obligations,” it says.
Karlsberger’s former president, Mitchel Levitt, who resigned in April 2010 after 31 years, told RECORD that the firm lost a major lawsuit that made it difficult to go on. The suit was brought against Ohio State University, one of Karlsberger’s largest clients, over the school’s termination of a contract for a $1 billion medical center expansion; the lawsuit was dismissed in December. “It probably hurt them,” Levitt said in an interview conducted in June. “But I thought they had done what they needed to do to continue to operate.”

While the new office building market may show few signs of turnaround, especially while jobs are scarce, a bright spot appears to be college work. Many schools’ endowments were wiped out in the recession but are now being replenished by a robust stock market, which means that many stalled university projects are back on track.

Indeed, the economic downturn suspended a renovation of Yale’s 1928 Swartwout Building, designed by Egerton Swartout. But that project recently resumed, says Richard Olcott, partner at New York-based Ennead Architects, which is overseeing the renovation. Olcott adds that his firm didn’t lay off any workers during the recession; in fact, it hired 40 people in the last year, including architects, for a grand total of 160 employees.

Even public universities, once hurt by dwindling tax-collection revenues, are restarting projects, according to Ayers Saint Gross, a Baltimore design firm at work on a once-stalled science building for the University of Delaware.

The firm added 18 people last year and is now looking to hire five more, including architects. It now has 130 employees, its highest-ever headcount, said Adam Gross, a principal. “I think the indicators are pretty serious,” he said, referring to the ABI and other worrisome data, “but not as serious as we experienced” in the fall of 2008.

Source Architectural Record

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US Architecture Billings Index remains in the black

Signs of recovery – but some practices just hanging on

Work for architects in the US stayed close to break-even level during the first quarter of this year.

The American Institute of Architects reported that the score for its Architecture Billings Index was 50.5 for March – down slightly on the 50.6 recorded the previous month. Any mark above 50 reflects an increase in billings. The new projects inquiry index was 58.7, up from February’s figure of 56.4.

AIA chief economist Kermit Baker said: “Currently, architecture firms are essentially caught swimming upstream in a situation where demand is not falling back into negative territory but also not exhibiting the same pace of increases seen at the end of 2010.

“The range of conditions reported continues to span a very wide spectrum with some firms reporting an improving business environment and even ramping up staffing, while others continue to operate in survival mode. The catalyst for a more robust recovery is likely financing.”

Article via Building Design Mag

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National Architecture Week 2011 – Connect. Check in. Celebrate. April 10 – 16, 2011

National Architecture Week is a public awareness campaign from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) dedicated to increasing attention to the role architects play as a force for positive change in our communities and to elevate the public’s appreciation of design.

Similar to previous years’ observances, National Architecture Week will be virtual and will be composed of video presentations and a presence on Foursquare designed to reach the public (practicing nonmembers as well as architecture lovers in general) and members. As an incentive to follow AIA National on Foursquare, each day a Foursquare follower will be randomly selected to receive a prize from AIA Store.

The intent is to use several platforms for as many people as possible to share their thoughts and engage with like-minded professionals during the week.

The event will kick off Sunday, April 10, with a welcoming video from AIA President Clark Manus, FAIA, which will be posted to the AIA National YouTube channel.

In the video, he will discuss an emerging issue within the architecture profession and end his presentation with a thought-provoking question for participants to discuss online.

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The Better Way to Know if a Building Is Green

An exhibit at the American Institute of Architects headquarters shows off the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system

The architecture firm Farr Associates, the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and the U.S. Green Building Council have produced a fantastic exhibit on how to create green neighborhoods. It opened in Chicago last year and is now on display at the American Institute of Architects headquarters in Washington.

This carries some symbolism. When it comes to sustainable communities, the architecture profession has been both hero and villain. It has been a hero because many of the early (and continuing) leaders of smart growth and sustainability in our built environment have been architects, from William McDonough to Peter Calthorpe, from Andres Duany to David Dixon. Frankly, in my opinion, architects were way ahead of the environmental community in forging solutions to sprawl. And it’s a good thing that they were, because they gave us environmentalists something positive to advocate.

Continue with article via The Atlantic

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SOM commissioned for FTP City in Danang

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP (SOM) has been awarded the masterplan commission for FTP City in Danang, Vietnam. SOM’s preliminary plan for a sustainable new high-tech community at the edge of the city has been applauded by local authorities, including the Head of Planning and the People’s Committee of the City of Danang. SOM is now working closely with these authorities to finalise the project’s design and ensure its delivery.

The plan has been commissioned by FPT, an up-and-coming national IT and telecommunications company with over 10,000 employees. Covering an area of over 180 hectares, the plan incorporates a wide range of uses organised into a series of distinct districts, including a Town Centre, a Business District, and a series of residential neighbourhoods. The plan also incorporates a new University Campus for FPT University – specialising in information technology, software development and e-services. The campus will also contain a research institute and training centre for FPT employees, allowing new technology to be developed further and put directly into practice.

SOM’s concept is formed on key principles to reduce energy needs and carbon emissions by promoting best practices in mixed-use development in an emerging local context of luxury resorts and single-use residential communities. Instead, FPT City will promote a diverse living community with integrated local services accessed via sheltered and shaded walkable streets. In addition to a web of natural greenways, the plan also incorporates a wide network of smart infrastructure. As a major national IT provider, FPT will ensure the delivery of state-of-the-art communications and information technology to every business and household in the community.

The design also brings to life part of a strategic regional river corridor initiative to be implemented between Danang and Hoi An, a national tourist destination, by establishing a new riverfront eco-park. The waterfront park engages a large existing lake at the river’s edge and will be designed to restore, protect and enhance the wildlife habitat along its entire length and around the lake’s perimeter.

Via World News Architecture

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A question and answer session with HOK New York Managing Principal President Mr. Carl Galioto

Carl Galioto

 Mr. Galioto, 57, is the managing principal of the New York office of HOK, one of the world’s largest architecture firms. HOK New York’s current projects include LG Electronic’s headquarters in Englewood, N.J., and Harlem Hospital.

Mr. Galioto joined HOK in 2009, after 30 years with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, where he helped design One and Seven World Trade Center.

Q Why did you leave S.O.M.?

 A My focus at S.O.M. was on the technical elements of architecture and project delivery. I was interested in having a broader role in the management of an office and of a firm. I also wanted to work on building information modeling on a firmwide basis. So this is Chapter 2.

Q What are your duties at HOK?

 A I have three principal jobs, and I like to joke that each takes up 30 hours a week.

One is being responsible for the financial management of the New York office and business development.

The other is to be the chair of our Project Delivery Board, which focuses on the documentation and management of projects firmwide. The third part is being a director of our Building Smart program, a platform for building information modeling.

Q What exactly is building information modeling?

 A Essentially creating buildings in a virtual environment. We use a variety of applications to design buildings and to simulate the activities and operations.

Q Are you working on many projects?

 A We have 25 to 30 projects in this office, which is up from last year.

Health care is the strongest of our components. We’re designing a number of hospitals, including the University Medical Center at Princeton, and Harlem Hospital.

One of the more interesting projects is the North American headquarters for LG Electronics. We also designed the Canon U.S.A. headquarters on Long Island and the BMW North America headquarters in New Jersey.

Q Was it your idea to move HOK’s New York headquarters to Midtown?

A One of my efforts has been to raise the visibility of HOK through the relocation to Bryant Park — really at the center of New York. Interestingly, our predecessor firm, Kahn & Jacobs, designed this building, so we were meant to be here.

We’re in a 12-year lease and made a very nice agreement with our landlord, Blackstone. We fit the space from a sustainable standpoint.

Q How so?

A We are tracking to be a LEED-platinum interior space, and one of the ways is through low-energy consumption.

We’ve reduced the energy consumption, attributable to lighting, by about 40 percent. Because of the daylight we could work with very low light levels here — most of the light in architects’ offices now is coming off computer screens. We have motorized shades with daylight sensors throughout the office.

We have low water consumption in the toilets, and each enclosed space has its own air control, so we don’t have to overcool or overheat the air. And, of course, all of the materials here have been carefully selected.

Q Are most of the projects you design sustainable?

A We go for silver, gold and platinum levels on projects we design, and we’re looking to exceed that. We are moving ahead with several designs for net-zero-carbon buildings. At HOK, the design of high-performance buildings is our design aesthetic.

Q Do you have a favorite architectural style?

A I’ve always had a fascination and appreciation for the Modernism of the midcentury — elegant and somewhat spartan — and I was fortunate to have worked on the restoration of Modern buildings, like the Lever House.

Q You also worked on One World Trade Center while at S.O.M.

A It was more than a project, because it was so meaningful to New Yorkers — not only for the symbolism but for the security of the occupants of that building.

But as an architectural element, it’s also significant and an important component of our skyline. The building is very symbolic, as you know: It rises to 1,368 feet, the same height as the original south tower, and with the mast reaches 1,776 feet. The base is 200 by 200 feet, the same dimensions as the old towers.

Q Did you always want to be an architect?

A Ever since I could remember. I remember being a very small boy at my grandparents’ backyard in Brooklyn and taking folding chairs, boxes and whatever I could find and piling them together in different shapes. I must’ve been like 4 or 5 and doing that sort of thing. I was always fascinated by the building process.

Hat tip NYT

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American Institute of Architects New York names new president

Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo

Ms. Castillo is the new president of the American Institute of Architects New York, one of the oldest and largest A.I.A. chapters in the nation, with just under 5,000 members.  She is also a principal at Helpern Architects, specializing in sustainable and historic preservation projects.

Photo Credit - Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

Q The theme of your presidency is “design for change.”

A It has to do with sustainable urbanization, which is absolutely critical. With over half of the world’s population now living in cities, and that number expected to reach 70 percent by the next generation, how are our cities going to handle all of this?

Seventy-five to 80 percent of greenhouse gases are from buildings. Architects have a responsibility in knowing that figure.

Q What can architects do to make cities more sustainable?

A How you design the buildings influences energy usage and the way you orient a building — where you put windows, the type of overhangs, and whether you use daylight versus artificial light. Every material selected has an environmental implication.

We’re very happy with Mayor Bloomberg’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through PlaNYC. The A.I.A. wants to go further: we want zero emissions.

Q Is that realistic?

A Well, I think you have to try. Imagine not needing fossil fuels, and the implications of not having to go abroad to get oil. It isn’t just extracting the fossil fuel, a limited resource, but it’s also the pollution caused by fossil fuels. You need to create buildings that use renewable resources.

Q What are some of the new materials being used or tested?

A We’re trying to encourage more interest in building science. People talk about phase change materials, like an insulation that changes from a liquid to a gas or solid. In New York, every square inch of buildings is so valuable. To just add, say, two feet of insulation is not going to work.

Q Will we see more LEED-certified buildings?

A They don’t always have to be LEED. Some, like the School Construction Authority, use the term “high performance.” They have their own guidelines.

Q Some of the smaller developers have complained that getting LEED certification is expensive.

A I don’t think it’s in the cost of the materials; it can be in the application process. LEED does have a lot of paperwork in terms of documenting where every single material comes from.

Now there’s the New York City Energy Conservation Code — as of last July — which sets energy-efficiency standards for new and existing buildings. The codes are changing so rapidly that they are going to acquire a certain amount of energy efficiency.

Q Do you have a favorite building?

A They’re all interesting for different reasons.

Q Or architect?

A Maybe McKim, Mead & White, after having worked at Low Memorial Library at Columbia and some Carnegie libraries. They’re magnificent buildings.

Q How is business at Helpern Architects?

A It has been slow over the last two years. It’s a little bit better.

Q What projects are you working on now?

A We’re working on a hotel — it’s to be rolled out in the next three weeks — and the Marble Collegiate Church, on Fifth Avenue and 29th, which is sort of a longstanding client. We’re doing a renovation there.

Q Your practice focuses largely on historic buildings.

A Some of the first projects that we did were up at Yale, on mansions. One of them was the Davies Mansion, which sat empty for 25 years. To turn that into the new center for globalization was both an interesting mission and a challenge, since the building was practically destroyed by fire.

Q What are your thoughts on the repurposing of the High Line?

A I think it’s a beautiful design. What’s great about the High Line, is the way it started off — with a competition. There was even the idea of turning it into lap lanes for swimming.

Q Can any other found space be creatively repurposed?

A I would like to see the space at Governors Island used. It is restricted — you can’t do housing, or a casino, but you could do restaurants, conference centers or parks. And there is a plan for a park from West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture.

There’s so much history there, and there’s a tremendous opportunity with Fort Jay and Castle Williams to teach children about history. You feel like you’re a world away, with these old trees, the barracks and the houses.


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Construction Spending Drops in December

Construction spending fell 2.5% sequentially in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $787.9 billion, 6.4% behind the rate of December, 2009, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday morning.

Residential construction fell 4.1% from November to a rate of $226.4 billion, a drop of 6.3% from the prior December. Total private construction was at a rate of $486.9 billion, 2.2% below the revised November estimate of $498.0 billion and 9.8% below December, 2009.

The value of private construction in 2010 was $507.3 billion, 14.3% behind 2009. Residential construction in 2010 was $241.4 billion, 1.7% below 2009.

For public construction, the seasonally adjusted annual rate was $301.0 billion in December, 2.8% below November and 11.2% below December, 2009.Highway construction was at a rate of $84.9 billion, 1.6% below November but 7.5% ahead of December, 2009.

The value of public construction in 2010 was $306.8 billion, 2.7% below 2009. Educational construction in 2010 was $74.4 billion, down 13.6% from 2009, and highway construction was $83.3 billion, 1.7% above 2009.

Via AIA.org

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