Activity at architecture firms has generally followed the path of the broader construction industry, so it stands that less construction also leads to less building design. This and other findings relating to the state of architecture firms across the country can be found in the American Institute of Architect’s The Business of Architecture: 2012 AIA Firm Survey Report on Firm Characteristics.
Total construction spending levels, which exceeded $1 trillion in 2008, fell to less than $800 billion in 2011: The resulting effect on architecture firms was a gross revenue decline of more than 40 percent over a three year period. Where firms saw revenue of $44 billion in 2008, numbers plummeted to $26 billion by 2011.
Lack of activity reduced the need for employees, and between 2007 and 2011, more than 28 percent of positions at architecture firms disappeared, more than erasing the 18 percent increase in architecture positions seen during the 2003–2007 upturn. The typical number of employees dipped from 10.3 in 2008 to 8.8 in 2011. And, according to most recent AIA estimates, almost one quarter of architecture firms are sole practitioners with more than 60 percent of firms reporting fewer than five employees on staff. In contrast, only 1.4 percent of offices have 100 more employees on staff, a majority of which are architecture positions.
The Business of Architecture: 2012 AIA Survey Report on Firm Characteristics is available for purchase through the AIA Store in PDF format only. The full 40-page report is available for $79.98 for AIA members and $129.95 for non-members.