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Room at the drafting table — Orthogonal Paradigm

Saturday, February 24th, 2018

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Room at the drafting table

Employment, Hours, and Earnings from the Current Employment Statistics survey (National)


Series Id:     CEU6054131001
Not Seasonally Adjusted
Super Sector:  Professional and business services
Industry:      Architectural services
NAICS Code:    54131
Data Type:     ALL EMPLOYEES, THOUSANDS Arch Graph

People will always need places in which to live, work, play, learn, worship, meet, govern, shop, and eat, right? These places can be public or private; indoors or out; rooms, buildings, complexes…So where have all the architectural jobs gone? We all live under the guided assumption that the economy is cyclical and that even after losing 35,200 jobs nationally in the field, from July ‘08 to July ‘09, that our communities will bounce back and remember the architects that design them, as well as welcome young aspiring architects to join the ranks. I mean, Architects are licensed professionals trained in the science and art of building design, who develop the concepts for structures and turn those concepts into images and plans. Impressive right? Not only do we create the overall aesthetic and look of buildings and structures, but most importantly make sure they are functional, safe and economical, yet suit the needs of the people that use them. Is the significant job loss temporary or have we entered into a process of architectural natural selection?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of architects is expected to grow by 18% between 2006 and 2016, which is faster than the average for all US occupations. As the population of the Sunbelt States continues to grow, the people living there will need new places to live and work. As the population continues to live longer and baby-boomers begin to retire, there will be a need for more healthcare facilities, nursing homes, and retirement communities. In education, buildings at all levels are getting older and class sizes are increasing which will require many school districts and universities to build new facilities and renovate existing ones. However in recent years, many architecture firms have outsourced the drafting of construction documents and basic design for large-scale commercial and residential projects to architecture firms overseas. This trend is expected to continue and may have a negative impact on employment growth for lower level architects and interns who would normally gain experience by producing these drawings. Given that 1 in 5 architects are self-employed (more than 2 times the proportion for all occupations), junior and apprentice architects are in danger of not being able to garner the 3 years of practical work training and site hours in order to sit for the Architect Registration Examination. Moreover, if Architecture is yet another industry being outsourced overseas for cheaper labor, it ups the ante for Architecture graduates competing for jobs at the most prestigious firms. Nevertheless, opportunities will be best for those that distinguish themselves with their creativity.

Besides employment growth, additional job openings will arise from the need to replace the many architects who are nearing retirement. Prospects will also be favorable for architects with knowledge of “green” design. Green design, also known as sustainable design, emphasizes energy efficiency, renewable resources such as energy and water, waste reduction, and environmentally friendly design, specifications, and materials. Rising energy costs and increased concern about the environment has led to many new buildings being built green. Some types of construction are sensitive to cyclical changes in the economy. Architects seeking design projects for office and retail construction will face especially strong competition for jobs or clients during recessions, and layoffs may ensue in less successful firms. Those involved in the design of institutional buildings, such as schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and correctional facilities, will be less affected by fluctuations in the economy. Residential construction makes up a small portion of work for architects, so major changes in the housing market would not be as significant as fluctuations in the nonresidential market.

Despite good overall job prospects some architects may not fare as well as others. The profession is geographically sensitive, and some parts of the Nation may have fewer new building projects. Also, many firms specialize in specific buildings, such as hospitals or office towers, and demand for these buildings may vary by region. Architects may find it increasingly necessary to gain reciprocity in order to compete for the best jobs and projects in other States. After examining the facts and figures it still has yet to be determined what the future holds for the architectural landscape. However what remains tried and true throughout the years is that design professionals will survive through creativity and innovation to provide our community with those places we hold so near and dear.

 Source and image: http://data.bls.gov/PDQ/servlet/SurveyOutputServlet


About Terrance Brown
I have a bachelors degree from the University of Alabama in World Business concentrating in International Marketing and French. I spent the past 3 years working at a large ad agency as a Broadcast Negotiator, on accounts such as Ford, Dominos, Burger King, Olive Garden, Cellular South, and Toys R Us to name a few. After being laid off in February '09, I've switched my attentions to helping make Refugee Desiger.com become a destination covering all aspects of design.

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