Is Architecture the Canary in the Coal Mine?

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Robison Wells
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We’ve heard conflicting reports over the past several months—sometimes the forecast is dire and other times it’s positive. But one area where there is definite suffering is in the architecture sector, which many consultants believe is the proverbial canary in the coalmine of construction: after all, if architects have nothing to design, then what is there to build?

A survey of more than 450 architects by the Association of Consulting Architects finds that 2/3rds have lost more than 30% of their revenue, and 80% have had projects cancelled or put on hold. Half have had to cut hours or lower pay for workers, and 30% have had to lay off staff. Only 15% say that they have enough work to see the year through without additional cuts.

In total, the survey found that $10 billion in projects had been put on hold indefinitely, or cancelled outright—and that’s not nationally, but just according to the 450 respondents to the survey.

John Held, the National President of the Association of Consulting Architects says, "Unless there is a more effective stimulus package for construction…to prevent the loss of many normally-viable architectural practices. Without a pipeline of projects, a substantial rise in unemployment across the whole construction sector will result."

They reported that 2/3rds of architectural firms are fewer than five people operations, operating on small profit margins. “Widespread insolvencies amongst these vulnerable firms would be catastrophic.”

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