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Green Means Green for Architects

Green means green for architects that make a serious investment in green architecture and sustainability.  When the recession hit in 2007, the housing and real estate markets were hugely impacted. Jobs in architecture became scarce, and architects started getting laid off in droves. Though there’s been an increase since 2010 in positions in this arena, the sector still struggles to maintain a steady increase in available gigs. According to SimplyHired, since July of 2013, there’s been a 24.4% increase in employment in Los Angeles and 34.4% in New York, so things are looking brighter. In fact, the green or sustainable architect is experiencing a major increase in work, with positions in both cities at an all time high because of the growth of the green economy.

There’s really no set rule for who can dub themselves green architects, but the program responsible for verifying green buildings is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). It gives points to projects based on their utilization of sustainable components. However, LEED doesn’t give awards to projects for performance, so there are other available options for certification: the Living Buildings Challenge, Passive House Institute, Green Globes and the government’s Energy Star Program all provide certification based on green standards.

In major metropolises like New York and Los Angeles, the green economy is growing. The public’s demand for green construction is due to its growing awareness of the dangers of climate change. While the green movement is considered “chic,” architects are expanding their views by combating climate change not only with their building designs but by constructing the bigger systems in which they function.

“We think of great design as having four equally important parts: ethical practice, experiential design, thoughtful impact, and excellent delivery. Included in ethical practice is sustainability and the idea that you can’t create great design without it. This translates into our everyday office operations in many big and small ways. The really exciting sustainable operations are yet to come in our new office!”
Irwin Miller, Los Angeles, Principal Design Director, Gensler .

In 2011, the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) listed the mean wage for a green architect as $83,390 – about $30,000 more than a residential architect. The BLS also predicts faster-than-average growth for architects until 2020, with green architects in particularly high demand.

Architecture is about designing structures. Green architecture goes one step further by altering structures so that they can contribute to the well-being of the environment. Some architecture firms are green firms not only because they specialize in this type of building, but because they incorporate the green philosophy into how they operate.

Green Architecture Sites:

Inhabitat
Architecture for Humanity
BLD BLOG

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AIA Comp Survey: Minimal Salary Increase

Lingering impact from the Great Recession slows gains in salaries

Over the last several years, most architecture firms have benefited from a general improvement in the economy as well as in the construction sector. Revenue at architecture firms increased almost 11 percent in 2012 from 2011 levels, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures, and firm payrolls have followed suit. But this modest improvement in business conditions has done little to lift compensation levels at firms. Between 2011 and 2013, average total compensation for architecture positions—including base salary, overtime, bonuses, and incentive compensation—increased only slightly over 1 percent per year, barely more than the average increase in compensation between 2008 and 2011, when the construction sector was still in steep decline.

Even this modest 1 percent increase in average architect compensation may overstate the experience of the typical architect during this period. Average compensation depends on the mix, by experience levels, of positions reporting. Since many less experienced architecture positions were eliminated during the downturn, current average compensation may reflect a higher share of more experienced (and more highly compensated) positions. Regardless, while average compensation for architecture positions increased a mere 0.7 percent per year compounded between 2008 and 2011, growth increased to only 1.1 percent per year between 2011 and 2013 (Exhibit 1.1).

compensation1

Architecture staff compensation tends to be more volatile over the business cycle than compensation for most other occupations. Over the past decade, compensation gains for architecture positions have more than kept pace with compensation across the entire economy. Architecture compensation increased 35 percent between early 2002 and early 2013, compared to just under 32 percent for all professional and related staff (typically defined as white-collar workers such as lawyers, accountants, etc.), and just over 29 percent for all private-sector workers (Exhibit 1.2).

compensation2

Compensation levels vary by firm size

Historically, large architecture firms have offered higher levels of compensation. These comparisons are more difficult for more senior positions because job responsibilities are difficult to compare across firms of different sizes. However, this disparity exists even for positions with relatively standard job descriptions such as Intern 1 or Architect 1.

At firms with fewer than 10 employees, Intern 1 compensation averaged 10 to 15 percent below national averages. At firms with more than 250 employees, Intern 1 compensation averaged more than 10 percent above the national average. A similar pattern held for Architect 1 positions: about 10 percent below the national average at firms with fewer than 10 employees, and almost 10 percent above the national average at firms with 250 or more employees.

Staff turnover and fringe benefits reflect improvement

Another sign that business conditions have stabilized across the profession is that benefits offered to employees have begun to modestly improve at many firms. While declining between 2008 and 2011 as firm revenues eroded, they rebounded modestly by 2013, with benefits packages averaging 18 percent of base salaries for professional staff. Benefits have bounced back faster at larger firms and remain significantly higher than those offered by smaller firms (Exhibit 1.3).

compensation3

 

Recent Related:

AIA Compensation Survey: Architect Compensation Stagnant

Reference:

Purchase the 2013 AIA Compensation Report

New for 2013: Architect Compensation by Metro Area

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US home sales unexpectedly drop 1.6%

The pace of purchased new homes fell to a 313,000 annual pace, the slowest since  October. Though an analyst says there are signs of life in some regions, “we’re  not seeing a broad-based recovery.”

(Bloomberg) – Purchases of new homes in the U.S. unexpectedly fell  in February for a second month, a sign the recovery in the housing market may be  uneven.

Sales dropped 1.6% to a 313,000 annual pace, the slowest since October, from  a 318,000 rate in January that was weaker than previously reported, figures from  the Commerce Department showed Friday in Washington. The median estimate of 78  economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for 325,000.

Sales of new homes are struggling to gain momentum amid increasing  competition from foreclosures, which are hurting all property values.  Nonetheless, a pickup in hiring, growing incomes and mortgage rates near a  record low are making all houses more affordable, which may help underpin the  market.

“There are signs of life in the market in certain regions, but we’re not  seeing a broad-based recovery,” said Michelle Meyer, a senior U.S. economist at  Bank of America Corp. in New York, who forecast a 310,000 sales pace. “Builders  are still competing with existing inventories. The spring selling season should  show some modest improvement, but it will be limited.”

Economists’ estimates ranged from 310,000 to 350,000. The rate for January  was previously reported at 321,000.

The recent slowdown in demand has pushed up the amount of time it takes to  sell a new house. There were 150,000 new houses on the market at the end of  February, matching the prior month’s record low. The supply of homes at the  current sales rate climbed to 5.8 months’ worth from 5.7 months in January.

Purchases, tabulated when contracts are signed, fell in two of the four U.S.  regions, led by a 7.2% drop in the South. Sales fell 2.4% in the Midwest and  rose 14% in the Northeast and 8% in the West.

The regional breakdown affected prices as demand fell in the South and  Midwest where homes are less expensive and rose in the Northeast and West where  they are costlier.

The median sales price increased 6.2% in February from the same month last  year to $233,700, Friday’s report showed.

New-home sales have lost their ability to forecast the broader market as  demand shifts to previously owned houses. Purchases of existing homes are  calculated when a deal closes about a month or two later. New properties made up  almost 7% of the market last year, down from a high of 15% during the last  decade’s housing boom.

Existing-home purchases eased to a 4.59 million annual rate last month from a  4.63 million pace in January, the National Association of Realtors reported this  week. Even with the decline, January and February sales marked the strongest  start to a year since 2007.

Home foreclosures remain a concern for builders. Filings fell 8% in February,  the smallest year-over-year decrease since October 2010, as lenders began  working through a backlog of seized properties, RealtyTrac Inc. said last week.

“February’s numbers point to a gradually rising foreclosure tide,” Brandon  Moore, RealtyTrac’s CEO, said in the statement. “That should result in more  states posting annual increases in the coming months.”

To hold down borrowing costs like mortgage rates, Federal Reserve policy  makers last week said they will continue to swap $400 billion in short-term  securities with long-term debt to lengthen the average maturity of the central  bank’s holdings, a move dubbed Operation Twist.

The National Association of Realtors’s affordability index climbed to a  record high in January, underpinning demand. That may be why builders are  gaining confidence.

Builders this year have broken ground on homes at the fastest pace since  October to November 2008, according to Commerce Department figures released this  week. Permits for construction climbed to the highest level since 2008, the same  report showed.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo index of builder  confidence in March held at the highest level since June 2007. Sales  expectations climbed for a sixth month, according to the March 19 report.

Ryland Group Inc., which builds homes with an average price of $255,000 in 13  states, said it has a positive outlook for 2012.

“We finished the year on a strong note, entered the year optimistic and still  feel fairly optimistic today,” Larry Nicholson, president and CEO at the  Westlake Village, Calif.-based company, said March 6 at an investor conference. “The good thing about the traffic we are seeing is it’s new traffic. We feel a  lot better than we did a year ago. Hopefully, we can keep this trend up.”

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