Can Technology Solve Architects’ Productivity Challenge?

Making the design process more efficient.

The technological revolution that is just beginning to hit the AEC industry has the potential to dramatically lift profitability for firm owners—and in doing so lift compensation for architects. To get there, firms will need to have a better strategic vision of how to harness these technologies to make the design process more efficient.

Architects, as well as the entire AEC industry, have been on a solid run over the past several years. Since the current construction recovery began in 2011, spending on construction projects nationally has increased almost 10 percent per year and, as a result, payrolls at architecture firms have increased about 4.5 percent annually. As a profession, architecture is almost back to where it was when the Great Recession began in 2008.

Business conditions have been so good that we may not have noticed that the design professions are still stymied by many of the same old business problems. Fees continue to be under tremendous pressure, even though many firms have more work than they can comfortably handle. Maintaining profitability remains a challenge for a significant share of firms. Compensation for architects continues to be well below that of other professions with comparable educational requirements; architects bemoan the fact that many of their college classmates who chose careers in law, medicine, business management, or technology had higher starting salaries than they likely will see even after 15 to 20 years of architectural practice.

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