For the third straight month the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) has gone up. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the April ABI rating was 48.4, up from a reading of 46.1 the previous month. Although this score reflects a continued decline in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings), it is the highest score since January 2008 when revenue at architecture firms headed into recession. The new projects inquiry index was 59.6.
“It appears that the design and construction industry may be nearing an actual recovery phase,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “The economic landscape is improving, although not across the board, but doing so at a gradual pace. It is quite possible that we will finally see positive business conditions in the foreseeable future.”
Key April ABI highlights:
Regional averages: Northeast (51.0), Midwest (49.2), South (46.5), West (44.7)
Sector index breakdown: commercial / industrial (48.5), mixed practice (48.4), institutional (46.8), multi-family residential (45.8)
American Planning Association (APA) President Bruce Knight, FAICP, at the United Nation’s Fifth World Urban Forum (WUF) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil announced the Sustaining Places Initiative will focus on the role of planning in addressing the entire set of human settlement issues relating to sustainability.
The initiative will establish a Sustaining Places Task Force that will focus on the use of the comprehensive plan as the leading policy document and tool to help communities of all sizes achieve sustainability. Work of the task force will include a survey of existing best practices, evolving needs and practices and the ways in which practices should change in the future in order for the comprehensive plan to better achieve its role as the leading policy document.
Susan Szenasy posted on Metropolis an article titled “United We Stand” in which she recalls some government officials giving encouragement at a recent NeoCon East annual trade show that there is “a new day for government design”. Szeasy goes on to talk about the importance to design of the recent $5.5 billion allocation to General Services Administration and the Department of Defense’s $7.4 billion reconfiguration funding.
However the point I found most interesting in Szenasy’s article was the GSA signing of a new accord with AIA, ASLA, IIDA; in which they have pledged to collaborate to achieve design excellence. I find this encouraging that professional associations have come together.
Currently, there is change occurring not just in the short-term with the Global Financial Crisis, but it seems more and more that sustainability, the environment, and climate change is becoming more important to the world. I feel that we need to move forward with new ideas and be armed with new tools especially in the area of urban design where cities are shrinking in the USA, new eco-towns are being built in the UK and new mega-cities are being designed and constructed in China, India, and Africa. Now is the best time to seek out other disciplines for collaboration not just for the networking and possible work opportunities but for the greater good of the profession. As Landscape Architects I know we often seek collaboration with other disciplines whether they are internal or external of our companies, however I think that as we head towards a new decade we should make more of a commitment to further collaborate with other professions to improve your knowledge and their knowledge so that together we can create a better future.
The International Design Competition for Newark Visitors Center is being held by AIA Newark, Suburban Emerging Professionals and the Young Architects Forum.
Competitors are asked to address the site on a variety of issues. Designers are asked to develop a strategy for receiving patrons and educating, entertaining, and directing them. Proposals should link the diverse historic and urban opportunities located within the area. Address the historical, present day, and future value of this new structure in Newark.