25 trends transforming architecture and design indicate there are opportunities amid the sluggish recovery.

DesignIntelligenceMost professional practices in the design and construction industry will experience an agonizingly slow comeback after the poor and often painful business conditions of the past year, according to a new report in the journal DesignIntelligence. Signs point to a sluggish recovery that will not take the industry back to what had been considered normal in the mid-2000s.

“At the macro level, the private capital that’s needed to support growth and urban health will not fall into place anytime soon,” notes DesignIntelligence.

Instead, according to the report’s co-authors, James P. Cramer and Jane Gaboury, a new normal will unfold, and with it plenty of pesky problems for architecture and design firm leaders. There will be no quick recovery. However, there is hope, they say.

“2010: A Year of Convalescence,” published in the January/February issue of DesignIntelligence, points to 25 significant trends transforming architecture and design that can offer sustenance during a painfully slow recovery. Among the trends are opportunities for strategic optimists who can translate recent developments into action plans, say Cramer and Gaboury:

  • Sustainability drives design. Architects, designers, and the public in general have embraced the notion that green design is an integral aspect of good design. And despite the severe economic contraction of the A/E/C market, designing projects for a LEED rating or comparable standard is allowing firms to enhance their sustainability offerings and providing a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy landscape.
  • New strategic models spell game change. Banking restrictions and cash-strapped clients are prompting firms to seek diversified and creative business strategies. Some of these tactics include the addition of services, specialization, brand differentiation, and a more discerning eye on go/no-go decisions. Looking to leverage opportunities and keep staff billable, professional firms need to dig proactively into clients’ strategies both to understand client needs and to root out new work.
  • Collaboration builds value. Collaboration between architectural firms and among other disciplines involved in the built environment is escalating. A focus on creating strategic collaborative relationships will serve firms well, allowing them to expand into additional geographic and market territories. New business and practice structures will unfold as well, with interest in the merging of construction and architecture firms.
  • Metrics matter more than ever. The ability to measure and verify systems performance will give firms a leg up. The digital revolution provides designers with ways to be far more productive than ever before. Using 4-D technology to create realistic computer renderings, architects now have the ability to study multiple design options in a fraction of the time it once took. This can be measured and then monetized.
  • Evidence-based design has increasing impact. A need for safety and a burgeoning demand for accountability have propelled evidence-based design in the health care sector. With this taste of success, designers will increasingly seek and be asked to seek data on the impact of design in other milieus. Not only will they more comprehensively incorporate exiting knowledge of human behavior in their work, but research into this area will gain prominence.

In addition to examining these and 20 other trends in depth, the January/February issue of DesignIntelligence includes economic forecasts and employment outlooks for the architecture, design, and construction industries. The issue includes articles by noted leaders in the design professions on topics such as branding in architecture, integrated project delivery strategy, whole-building metrics, and design firm resilience through technology.

The article “2010: A Year of Convalescence” is available online to members of the Design Futures Council.

The January/February issue is available for purchase through the DesignIntelligence bookstore or by calling toll-free: (800) 726-8603.

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