Posted: December 5th, 2011 | Author: Jonathan Bahe | Filed under: Global practice, Leadership, Sustainability | Tags: Climate Change | 1 Comment »
A new report out this weekend from the Global Carbon Project paints a rather depressing picture of the state of our planet - we (homo sapiens) continue to increase the amount of carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere. And the rate of increase continues to grow.
The report - using data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Earth Systems Research Laboratory and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography - indicates that atmospheric CO2 emissions reached 389.6 ppm in 2010, a 39% increase since the start of the Industrial Revolution, and the highest in at least the last 800,000 years.
The largest contribution to climate change is not cow farts, but the burning of fossil fuels - hopefully no surprise to anyone reading this. Unfortunately, on this front, more bad news. CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels (namely coal, petroleum, and natural gas) increased by 5.9% in 2010 - the highest levels in human history and 49% higher than in 1990 (the reference year for the Kyoto Protocol). Coal burning was responsible for 52% of this growth.
A New York Times article highlighting the research has a quote from Glen P. Peters, one of the leaders of the team from the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo which produced the study which sums it up best. He says, “Each year that emissions go up, there’s another year of negotiations, another year of indecision.”
The bad news is that the global A/E/C industry is a significant part of the problem. The good news is, we can also be a part of the solution. This is an important moment in the history of our profession and our planet. No one lays this out better than Ed Mazria and Architecture2030. Commitment to the 2030 Challenge is the first step. Transforming your practice is the critical element - for survival’s sake.
Posted: November 1st, 2011 | Author: Jonathan Bahe | Filed under: Global practice, Leadership, Uncategorized | No Comments »
A big day today in the history of our precious planet - it is estimated by the UN that today is the day we cross the threshold of 7 billion people alive on Earth. Admittedly the science is a little fuzzy on how exactly to count 7 billion people, but let’s assume that they are right, plus/minus even a month or two. The pace of population growth is quite remarkable.
In 1804, we reached 1 billion. It took until 1960 to get to 3 billion people. Then the population exploded. 4 billion in 1974; 5 billion in 1987; 6 billion in 1999 -which brings us to today.
The scale of humanity’s need for better design cannot be understated. Globally and locally, the services of much of the design community have not served most of the population. The good news is that there is a movement to shift these paradigms. The Rural Studio at Auburn University is a model many schools are now trying to replicate - students doing great design at little cost. Public Architecture continues to encourage the design professions to give a simple 1% of their time to pro bono design. Their former Executive Director, John Cary, is curating a discussion about the movement at www.PublicInterestDesign.org . The recently launched IDEO.org is striving to partner IDEO’s approach of human-centered design with the people who need it the most. Project H Design is incorporating design into education.
7 billion people is clearly a milestone - and one with uncertain consequences as growth continues towards 9 billion by 2050 (slowing a little). The scale of solutions can and must vary - what matters is that the design community begins developing them more quickly and more responsibly.
Posted: August 17th, 2011 | Author: Jonathan Bahe | Filed under: Best Practices, Compensation, Economy, Education, Leadership | Tags: Tuition Tuesday | 1 Comment »
2 notable reports this week already regarding the impact that economic conditions are having on various types of credit (mortgages, credit cards, student loans, etc.), both from the Wall Street Journal and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
The first, from the Real Time Economics blog, shows that while U.S. household debt has declined 8.64% since it’s peak in the 3rd quarter of 2008 to $11.42 trillion, student loan debt is up sharply, rising 25% over the same period. This increase from $440 billion to $550 billion might be reflective of more people going back to school in the hopes of increasing their skills and value in a difficult job market. The report doesn’t indicate the reason for the increase, however the drastic increase certainly will affect future spending and compensation expectations. The graphic from this report showing this change is below:
Monday’s news was followed yesterday, by another report showing a steady climb in delinquency rates of student loans. The article says, “11.2% of students loans are more than 90 days past due”, and the delinquency rate steadily increasing. Credit cards are the only type of loan with higher delinquency rates, however those numbers have been declining for the last year.
We’ve set up an educational system - and an employment system - that requires students to take on incredible amounts of schooling, and in many cases the associated debt. It impacts the diversity of our profession and the economic condition of employees of every professional practice in the country.
The question for leaders of professional practices is simply this: Do you know the cost of education at the institutions you typically recruit from? If so, do you know the associated debt load or student loan payments made by graduates coming from that institution to your firm?
Once you know this information, the opportunity is to develop unique strategies for recruitment and retention that help minimize the pressure these individuals feel financially. As competition remains high for talented, committed employees, helping your youngest professionals and recent graduates can lead to significant increases in loyalty and retention. And that, is one of the best investments your practice can make in today’s economy.
Posted: June 21st, 2011 | Author: Jonathan Bahe | Filed under: Compensation, Education, Leadership, Uncategorized | Tags: Tuition Tuesday | 4 Comments »
Third post in this multi-part series on increasing college tuition, with a special emphasis of course on the impact on the design professions. Today’s topic is about the growing disconnect between tuition and salary.
The statement that “there is no money to be made in architecture or design” has long been shared with students, and unfortunately in many cases accepted as fact. For many years, issues of unpaid and underpaid internships caused significant hardship within the profession. Over the last 15 years however, the profession has done an admirable job of nearly ridding itself of the practice - with some exceptions - and recognizing the contributions of young staff. In the most recent DesignIntelligence Compensation & Benefits survey, the mean annual salary for year 3 interns, just finishing IDP, was $44,750 plus a mean bonus of 2.7%. A big jump from 1996 when DesignIntelligence reported a mean salary of $28,760. In fact this growth even beat inflation.
So the good news is, we are slowly making strides in what we pay recent graduates and interns. The not so good news, the cost of education is greatly exceeding these gains. According to the College Board, tuition and fees at public universities have surged over 130% over the last 20 years. At the same time, the maximum amount of government-subsidized loans that a student is eligible to receive for a four-year degree has remained $23,000 since 1992
Median income has remained roughly the same since 1988, while tuition and fees has more than doubled. Source: CNN Money
This post isn’t meant to argue that recent graduates and interns are underpaid - we can save that discussion for another time. However, what is increasingly apparent is the disservice to recent graduates who spend thousands of dollars to get college degrees, and then find themselves in a work force which doesn’t compensate accordingly. A push towards increasing the value and relevancy of the degree is necessary, and requires a joint effort between the academy and professional practices. Then perhaps the conversation can become more about value and less about cost. By recognizing value-in (tuition) and increasing value-out (relevancy), we can grow our profession in more sustainable ways, and support the next generation of leadership.
Posted: June 15th, 2011 | Author: Jonathan Bahe | Filed under: Education, Leadership | Tags: Education, Tuition Tuesday | 3 Comments »
Another post in the Tuition Tuesday series - this time on the ever-increasing debt loan on new graduates.
A recent New York Times article, highlights the problem facing recent graduates with bachelor’s degrees - an average of $24,000 in student loan debt. From 1993 to 2008, the percentage of graduates with debt increased from 50% to nearly two-thirds. In fact, for the first time, student loan debt is now larger than credit card debt, and is projected to top one trillion dollars in 2011.
And this is only for students with a 4-year undergraduate degree. For students with a professional degree in architecture, either a 5 year Bachelor of Architecture degree or a 2-3 year Master of Architecture degree, this debt load is likely to be considerably higher. Recent research from DesignIntelligence and the Design Futures Council on tuition and fees in accredited architecture programs begins to indicate how high this debt load might be. For undergraduates in a 5-year B.Arch program, in-state tuition and fees averages $19,454, and $25,725 for out-of-state students. Annually. Not including housing, medical expenses, books, studio supplies, or the host of other expenses associated with college. For M.Arch students, the numbers are quite similar - $19,186 for in-state, and $25,749 for out-of-state. These M.Arch programs range from 2 to 3 1/2 years, and are on-top of an existing bachelor’s degree, sometimes in architecture, sometimes in another discipline. It is important to note that at every institution, students receive varying degrees of financial assistance, either through grants funded by the federal or state government, or through institutional scholarships.
Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for College Access and Success writes in the New York Times article, “If you have a lot of people finishing or leaving school with a lot of debt, their choices may be very different than the generation before them. Things like buying a home, starting a family, starting a business, saving for their own kids’ education may not be options for people who are paying off a lot of student debt.”
The impact that the increasing strain of college debt has on a willingness of individuals to seek ownership in design practices can not be overstated. We are constraining the opportunities of both leadership and ownership transitions in practices at a time when the generational demographics indicate they are needed the most. This isn’t just an issue for the students of today, but for the owners of the firms of tomorrow.
Posted: May 31st, 2011 | Author: Jonathan Bahe | Filed under: Best Practices, Leadership, Planning, Sustainability, Technology | Tags: Cities, design futures council | No Comments »
This month’s GreenSource Magazine has a great interview with Jan Gehl, an architect and founding partner of Gehl Architects and a Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council. For much of his career, Jan and his team have focused on the development of human-scale strategies to improve cities. Working globally in cities like Copenhagen, Melbourne, Seattle, New York, and Sao Paulo, the firm’s work integrates itself with what Jan calls “the people scale” to better understand how a city’s inhabitants live, work, and play.
In the interview, Jan says, “While there are a lot of planners and architects looking after the airplane and rooftop scales, the treatment of the people scale has been very distant. It is as if nobody has really addressed making good urban habitats for homo sapiens.” As I travel the United States and increasingly the globe to work with clients and meet with thought leaders, I’m struck by how true this is. Many American cities have pockets of good urban space — walkable, pedestrian-scaled, for varied uses — and yet they are just small pockets in an increasingly bland landscape designed for everything but homo sapiens.
It seems strange to need to suggest that architects, interior designers, and urban designers should focus more on how people actually feel in the spaces they create — regardless of the scale at which they work. And yet, we seem to have lost this important ethos as a profession.
Posted: December 7th, 2010 | Author: Scott Simpson | Filed under: Economy, Leadership, Planning, Professional practice, Strategy | Tags: AEC, change | 4 Comments »
A Brief History of the 21st Century and What It Means for Design
A mere 10 years ago, our biggest worry was Y2K. We were bombarded with dire predictions about computers going crazy at one second after midnight on Jan. 1, 2000, snarling all things digital and randomly rearranging our e-mail, financial records, and air traffic control. Some people even canceled their New Years travel plans, fearing that their jumbo jet could become hopelessly lost in the heavens. Alas … didn’t happen. But in the intervening decade, a lot of other stuff did.
With 9/11, the prospect of systematic terrorism on U.S. soil was thrust onto center stage. This was followed in short order by a war that seemed to be over within months but hasn’t ended yet. Then a huge surge in the stock market created historic levels of new wealth, which in turn fueled unprecedented growth and prosperity worldwide, especially in China. Awareness of global warming also made an appearance, just in time to cast a pall over the burst of industrialization. Then, of course, the Great Recession, from which we learned that if enough people in Florida get behind on their mortgage, an entire country can be bankrupted (Iceland). Who knew?
While all this was going on, nerds from Stanford (Larry Page and Sergy Brin) and Harvard (Mark Zuckerberg) were pulling all-nighters inventing Google and Facebook, which allow us to find out pretty much anything we want to know on a 24-7 basis and then share it (along with our most intimate secrets) with thousands of our closest personal friends.
Toss in a few natural disasters (tsunamis, hurricanes, and volcanoes), and just for good measure, add the very real prospect of nuclear proliferation, courtesy of Iran and North Korea. That’s a lot to digest in just a few years.
What have we learned from all this?
The key lesson is connectivity. Politics, finance, commerce, weather — everything is intimately intertwined, we’ve come to understand. Even a very small change, like a degree or two in the average temperature of the ocean, can have huge consequences. As a result, we have developed a new appreciation for systems thinking and the power of context. From this, a different kind of economy has emerged — one that is more about creating networks and experiences than making tangible things. In turn, individual effort is being supplanted by the power of teams, with a focus on partnering, value creation, and collaborative learning. Indeed, mass collaboration is the only way we can succeed from here on out.
Why is this so important for designers? Because design thinking is what creates the interface between technology and people. Design helps us deal with change, making disruptive innovation possible. Case in point: Technology made Internet banking plausible, but it was the design of the ATM that made it accessible and then pervasive. Ditto for cell phones, iPods, and e-books.
Access to huge amounts of information would be meaningless without a way to organize, manage, interpret, and apply it. The amazing tools that have been developed in the past 10 years are merely a preview of things to come. For example, now that the human genome has been decoded, the possibilities for inventing new medical therapies are literally boundless. Google maps already keep us from getting lost, but pretty soon they’ll actually be doing the driving as well, knowing in advance which motels have vacancies.
And what about buildings? Today, they are relatively inert, but in the future, they’ll develop thinking properties, manufacture their own energy, adjust their heating and cooling systems automatically as weather and occupancy change, and even make more coffee when the pot runs low. They might even become kinetic, swiveling on their foundations to catch every available solar ray or gust of wind, essentially becoming very large, self-charging batteries in which people happen to live and work. Design will make all this, and much more, possible.
Throughout history, various classes of leadership have emerged to shape society and culture. There have been religious leaders (pharaohs and popes), military leaders (kings and generals), business leaders (industrialists and financiers) and even artistic leaders (from the Renaissance to rock-n-roll). Because the world has become so complex and interconnected, the next generation of leaders must include a new kind of priesthood: design thinkers.
We’ve already seen how powerful design can be when applied to improving mundane products such as vacuum cleaners and luggage. How much more pervasive will it be when applied to whole systems, such as health care, education, or even government? Could designers create a justice system that is swift, fair, and inexpensive? Why can’t going to court be as simple as renting a car?
You get the idea. Design, which is both a verb and a noun, is about process as well as things. This is powerful stuff. Design enables us to explore the unimaginably small (via the Large Hadron Collider at CERN) and the immensely huge (via the Hubble telescope), plus everything in between. It’s how we envision and invent. Most important, it’s essentially optimistic. Design thinking assumes successful outcomes and carries a conviction that there is always more than one way to solve a problem. Design is also democratic. It’s about what works, and anybody can do it. Design transcends borders and is not inhibited by cultural or language barriers. A great idea travels fast and is easily adopted and adapted.
But here’s a question: What will we call the great designers of the second decade of the 21st century who will provide the new ideas, strategy, and leadership that are so desperately needed? Will they be architects? Architects are creative, to be sure, but to be truly effective, they also need to develop an appetite for risk and entrepreneurship.
Perhaps it’s time that design thinking is applied to the design profession itself. How should we be training the next generation? What do they really need to know? How fast can they learn it, and by what means? How can design thinking be broadened to include other disciplines, such as finance, politics, and medicine? Why not think of business managers as process designers, law enforcement officials as designers of secure neighborhoods, and public health officials as designers of our collective good health? Getting the right answers starts by asking the right questions, and designers can lead the way.
Posted: November 24th, 2010 | Author: James P. Cramer | Filed under: Economy, Leadership | Tags: change, Leadership, opportunity, performance | No Comments »
It is very likely that your role in the design professions and in our industry will be changing rapidly. This is because there are new competitive threats from outside the traditional A/E/C industry structures and there are new technologies to navigate … not to mention all the reasons associated with the economy.
This changing context often leaves people confused about their long-term goals. Our position at Greenway Group is that the future is and will continue to be brimming with opportunities. If you are planning new goals for next year here is what I recommend:
- Develop a coherent and positive point of view. Right, it’s not easy to do today, but it is essential that you do this now. No one outperforms his or her own aspirations. Your point of view should be expansive and should get your adrenaline rushing. This is an essential choice you must make. This is your angle on the future.
- Revise your vision for the next three years. Backcast the action steps that will be needed to achieve the vision. Think non-linearly about inventing your future. Your plan should be edgy, not last year’s formula.
- Make more friends and be more likable. Build relationships with a quality network.
- Extinguish inertia. That is to say, co-opt and neutralize the anti-change forces around you. Push away negative forces.
- Create and use a posture and a vocabulary of action and motivation. This will become your personal dynamism. Don’t worry and stew over today’s molehill problems; take advantage of this time to think in new ways. Build bridges toward new opportunities that are often just outside the boundaries you’ve been operating in.
If you want to change anything major, you have to make a choice to do some things differently. Then, you will ride the ascendancy path toward some very interesting opportunities ahead. You’ll be amazed not only by what has been accomplished but also what you’ll be looking forward to.
Posted: November 9th, 2010 | Author: James P. Cramer | Filed under: Economy, Leadership, Planning, Professional practice, Strategy, Uncategorized | Tags: Communications, Culture, Leadership, management, Motivation | 13 Comments »
Each day I get asked about — or find myself in a discussion about — executive level leadership. Both the American Institute of Architects and the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards are looking for their next chief executives. Several of the largest firms in the country are also considering transitions in their leadership brought about by economic, demographic, and opportunity shifts in their professional practices.
These search and selection processes give us pause. The stakes are high. How should these organizations determine the best leaders?
Whatever else the leader’s role in an association or professional practice, there are 10 base essentials. When these foundational characteristics are present, the organization functions with energy and competence to serve its mission. Here is what I believe is essential.
1. Leaders act as both visionary and key day-to-day resource for overcoming difficulties. They set the tone for the can-do culture of the organization.
2. They develop and conceptualize the organization’s tactical plans to accomplish strategic ambitions. They develop and keep clarity around goals. This develops strategic optimism.
3. Communications are sincere, open, and energized. The leader is not intimidating and has the wisdom of perspective, good humor, and agility to work with a diversity of situations.
4. Leaders are able to manage demanding schedules, and their agenda is always focused on what matters most.
5. They listen and then coach every situation they find themselves in.
6. Financial matters are monitored, measured, and communicated, and these leaders tend to consistently bring in the bottom line — no matter the excuses of the day.
7. There is an ambassadorial quality about them. They are sought out to problem-solve and inspire along the way while building bridges.
8. Today’s issues are never ignored, and there is a sense that the longer-term plans can be realized through today’s actions – no matter how painful.
9. Resilience is manifested in the language of the leader who is prepared for inevitable surprises.
10. Accountability is never shirked and the leader takes final responsibility for results and outcomes. This is a stand-and-be-counted attitude that becomes contagious in the life of the organization.
Leadership is demanding. Great leaders are rare. These 10 characteristics are framed by lifestyle and attitude. Leaders are not perfect, but they have an uncanny knack for applying sensible, inspired, day-to-day actions that make all the difference.
Posted: September 29th, 2010 | Author: Jonathan Bahe | Filed under: Leadership, Strategy, Sustainability, Uncategorized | 9 Comments »
Holstee is an organization was founded in 2009 by two brothers who are passionate about sustainability and wanted to pursue this lifestyle and its links with innovative design. They have produced a variety of products including shirts, wallets, and jewelry - you can find more of their products here. To help its customers understand the ecologic impacts of the product they sell, Holstee has developed a series of badges which describe the key sustainable elements of each product. They have also taken great care to address issues of shipping and packaging - two significant issues for the sustainable product realm. And if this wasn’t enough, Holstee has committed to using 10% of all sales as micro-loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries.
Holstee has tied this all together with their manifesto. Not only graphically pleasing, but also contains powerful beliefs which guide the organization. Not only has it generated a decent amount of press, but it also makes their consumers aware of who they are and what they believe.
What if you were to develop a similar “manifesto” for yourself as a design leader? What would it say?
How about for your professional practice or organization? What bold public statements are at the core of your work - define the essence of your practice? Are they different than your personal beliefs?