Thirty-Five Trends to Watch in 2007

Each year The Greenway Group, a foresight and strategic management consulting organization in Atlanta, Georgia, slices and dices global design and construction trends in dozens of different ways. More than just trend spotting, they provide information on changes in technologies and behaviors and suggest ideas for translating the information into new management systems, processes, behaviors, and products – in essence, actionable ideas.

  1. Design-Build service delivery will grow at 2.8 percent annual rate in the US but with significant variations depending on geography and building type. This will substantially affect issues of risk management, since so many formerly competitive entities will be linked by contractual bonds. Essentially this is a “master builder” trend.

  2. Integrated and more overtly collaborative professional practices can be expected in planning, architecture, interior design, engineering, landscape architecture, construction, and facility management. Project management will be enhanced through round the clock web sites with new procedures, protocols, and processes.

  3. Anti-Americanism on AE procurement will increase, will spread to more countries and will affect the growth rates of US based international design practices. Still, expect growth of international practice to continue and outpace growth of firms practicing only within the US.

  4. Talent shortages will intensify in architecture, design, engineering, construction, and landscape architecture. Supply-demand economics raises base pay by an average of 6.7 percent in 2007 and 6.1 percent in 2008.

  5. The continued, gradual, adoption of BIM Technology will proceed with significant new training programs and expansions implemented in 2007 and 2008.

  6. Demographics and generational changes will alter the context for professional service delivery, creating a need for new communication plans, new marketing programs, and new design experiences. The generational divide requires new design solutions: 0-10 Digital from Birth; 11-30 Generation Now; 31-40 Generation X; 41-60 Zoomers; 61+ Prime Timers.

Pulaski Furniture Corporation has a line of juvenile furniture designed by kids for kids. Their advisory board includes a panel of 15 children.

  1. Strategic optimism and a deep categorical confidence in a client’s field of work, fused with imagination and knowledge free of pessimism or cynicism, will be increasingly valued.

  2. Productivity increases nearing and exceeding annual double-digit percentages with typical revenues per employee increasing by $27,500+. Fees per full time equivalent (FTE) are now at $137,700 in leading firms with expectations to top $200,000 in 2009. Profits per partner (PPP) will increase significantly, changing target goal levels in many private practices. Expect 100 percent improvement in productivity spanning less than seven years.

  3. More sophisticated career planning including the abandonment of compulsory retirement programs in design and engineering firms will occur. Also, expect to see partners named at earlier ages including those in their 30’s.

  4. The growth in female gender percentages in architecture firms and growth of male gender percentages in interior design firms will increase by nearly two percent per year.

  5. Gender balance continues to shift in accredited colleges of architecture to just below 50 percent female.

  6. Significant process differentiation in project and design management will lead to trademark and branding campaigns. Design firms will use copyright and trademark differentiation as part of their new value proposition’s high definition.

  7. Fast architecture models will be adopted by traditional firms. Speed is a strategic value proposition and firms will invent ways to deliver, proving that speed is not the enemy of quality.

  8. Architects focus not only on buildings of firmness, commodity, and delight but also on the experience of place that create new economic engines in diverse building types. Design-branded environments will include “healthy living” communities designed by architects, and new developments by prominent designers.

David Rockwell’s healthy living community features a hotel, several spa-cuisine restaurants, and a spa and fitness center.

  1. Urbanization trend will bring new challenges for water, housing, and planning. Almost 200,000 people are added to the urban population each day. Populations in developed nations are 75 percent urban. By 2015, 23 cities in the world are projected to hold over 10 million people; all but four of these will be in less developed countries.

Significant numbers of people
(over one billion of 6.5 billion world population) do not have readily available potable water.

  1. Compensation levels for intern architects, on average, will break the $50,000 threshold in 2007-2008. No difference in compensation between gender, race, and ethnic background at intern levels as measured in leading firms.

  2. Knowledge worker migration favors coastal, southern, and western geographies in the United States. Expect merger and acquisition activity to aggressively include firms in these locations where a workforce is motivated to locate.

  3. Green and sustainable design is sought after by clients who are increasing the expectations for expertise and advisement in the design professions. Firms without green repute will become anti-strategic in the marketplace.

The Kabi Golf Course in Australia is a certified organic 18 hole course. Restoration architects expect the torch on the Statue of Liberty to be lit exclusively by wind power.

  1. The trend for B.Arch programs to phase toward M.Arch and D.Arch accredited programs will continue. Compensation differential for master’s degree interns over bachelor degree interns continues to increase. Fifty-four percent of US firms provide a 5 percent to 20 percent salary increase for M.Arch degrees.

  2. Science, engineering, and architecture programs face significant increases in foreign-born students, significant numbers of whom will intern in US but return to their native countries – some offering outsourcing to US firms.

  3. Architects, designers, and engineers are using nanotechnology in their security, sustainability, lighting, and acoustical design. Nanotechnology is becoming a new knowledge management specialty area for design firms.

Hydrophobes, glass featuring a dirt-repellent nanotechnology, will be increasingly used in glass shower partitions in hospitality design.

  1. Contractors and architects will increasingly utilize more sophisticated wearable computers for office use and on-site construction supervision and communication. Koyono now uses ElekTex smart fabric controls located on clothing, enabling contractors to control their electronics without taking them out of their pockets.

Microsoft and Eleksen will offer fabric keyboards making for ultra-mobile personal computing and integrated media technologies.

  1. The percentage of professional practices offering salary incentives at the time of passing the ARE (or other professional licensure) now stands at 94 percent and is increasing; this practice is expected to be virtually ubiquitous by the end of the decade. In 2007 fifty percent of firms will provide for salary increases of more than 5 percent following licensure, a steady increase since 2004.

  2. Extreme weather and climate change will increasingly impact design options and solutions including the morphing of vernacular design. Solar power could alone displace trillions of dollars of natural gas, saving US corporations tens of billions of dollars between 2007 and 2015. Watch for new tax incentives and the increased appearance of small wind turbines discretely designed into commercial and select residential projects. Car parks, light industrial sites, and schools will be early adopters of wind turbine solutions.

  3. Strategic partitioning, modular structures, and factory built units will see increasing investments and are expected to play a far larger role in housing, retail, residential, manufacturing, and K-12 facilities construction. One of the legacies of hurricane Katrina is the accelerated growth and popularity of increasingly well designed modular building.

Entire web portals and news blogs are now devoted to prefab and modular housing trends, sites like

  1. Professional workers from other external knowledge professions will enter the design professions serving in expert roles, especially in healthcare design, and education design. In addition, watch for anthropologists, real estate developers, and college presidents to join the boards of top design and construction firms.

  2. Lifecycle design will become a dynamic new service offering for professional practices who will take contractual responsibility for structures over their useful life. Clients understand that taking care of their buildings is a smart investment and who better than the original designers to take responsibility for the buildings stewardship.

  3. Generalist practitioners will fade from the professions. Interviews with 250 leading North American clients indicate that specializations will grow because clients seek:

A. Deep expertise and competence
B. Repute by building type
C. Trust and confidence in a specialized zone
D. Familiarity and comfort

  1. The “traditionalizing” trend will ramp up further in 2007-2008, which has clients seeking more traditional looking buildings in retail and residential design. In addition, the modern design trend of simple and comfortable 1950’s continues into new interpretations on international scale that would please Eames, Wagner, and Aalto. “Authenticity” is the new design aesthetic evolving to include health and environmentally conscious design. This trend will move rapidly into hospitality, travel, and residential design. Side-by-side with “hyper-real,” this trend will thrive and we will see the “impossible” challenged.

  2. Outsourcing will increasingly be prevalent and prescient, particularly in India where language and training match with quality expectations.

India is second only to Canada in their application of LEED building standards.

  1. Intelligent buildings will become the norm. They will anticipate, have “smart” walls and floors, and be constructed with computerized components that will utilize artificial intelligence in every aspect of the building.

mart walls will be used to detect unaccompanied luggage in terminals. Air purifying carpets will use a catalyst integrated into the backing.

  1. Zero energy buildings will be created that produce more energy than they consume. Watch for corporate offices and high-density residences that serve as neighborhood power plants using latest in sustainable technology.

Designers and scientists at Corning have developed glass free of heavy metals.

  1. Thanks largely to BIM, there will be radical tort reform in construction liability.

  2. Wild cards and inevitable surprises, including severe weather and terrorist acts, are forecast into planning and construction schedules allowing projects to absorb the events with expectant agility.

  3. Intelligence, talent, wisdom, maturity of judgment, and vision – not licensure or technology, become the primary differentiators for design professionals seeking best practice performance.

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