Presented by: Steven Isaacs, Assoc. AIA, of the Advanced Management Institute for Architecture and Engineering.
April 30, 2009
What people want to learn: “I’m a small firm owner, and I’m looking to learn how to ride the waves of the economy. [I’m interested in] federal work that could become a trend, as well as sustainability. I know those are trends that are going to be required to stay alive in this economy.” Ineda Adesanya, Assoc. AIA, of IPA Planning Solutions, an urban design and land use planning firm in Oakland, Calif.
Isaacs encouraged full house to create and push some of these trends he talked about. The presentation focused primarily on what will happen when the recession is over into the next 10 years. “Act now for the future,” he said, or, in Canadian sports parlance, “Skate to where the puck will be.” This presentation looked at the AEC industry holistically, through the multidisciplinary lenses of architects, engineers, contractors, and planners. His trends fit into several categories (social, environmental, political, economic, technological) and how they will affect the AEC industry.
Social Trends: The world population is getting older, far more urbanized, and more middle class. This will require more health facilities and civic infrastructure. The globalized economy will make the United States more vulnerable to brain drain from young professionals.
Technological Trends: Artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and automation will all play a greater role in the design and construction industry. “Imagine houses growing on the site from seeds,” says Isaacs. (People will still be in charge of problem solving, creativity, innovative ability, and aesthetics. You’ll be able to leave the grunt work to robots and software.) The design and process efficiencies gained by using BIM and IPD will continue to grow.
Economic Trends: Mega-corporations will begin to act more like governments and governments will behave more like mega-corporations. China and India will continue to emerge as world-leading economies, and their growing middle classes will create unprecedented demand for design services, but will also strain the world’s resources. A globalized economy will mean higher competition (and thus higher prices) for building materials, energy, and brain power. Isaacs predicts the industry will become more consolidated and collaborative.
Political Trends: Private corporations will build more public infrastructure. Echoing Buckminster Fuller, Isaacs said countries at war will become economic pariahs. The business advantages of peace will become more and more apparent.
Environmental Trends: A worldwide shortage of natural resources will effect the distribution of people, the health of local economies, and political stability. Fresh water will become the next highly prized, expensive resources, especially since current US population trends have seen net immigration to areas poor in fresh water from areas with more water resources. “Detroit may return,” Isaacs said. “They’ll just do bottled water.” Research and development will come from non-traditional AEC firms, and building standards and zoning will become more stringent. Sustainable building technology will develop rapidly and will become completely mainstreamed. It will be common to design buildings that generate net energy, changing notions of “sustainability” to “environmentally beneficial.”
What people thought: “This had a good global outreach and it gave me a lot of different viewpoints outside of our little sphere. Sometimes we get a little too caught up in our sphere. I’ve got an architect-led design-build firm. We’ve been using integrated practice for 15 years and BIM for 7. What he just said—that’s why I came here--because I need to keep hearing this because that tells me we’re doing to the right thing.” James Walbridge, AIA, principal of Tekton Architecture in San Francisco.
Best Practice Tips: Isaacs said the top two trends adversely affecting the architecture profession in the next decade will be the inefficiencies built into the typical design process and the difficulty of attracting top-tier talent to the design and construction industry in a recession.