There are twelve primary challenges facing most architects in 2022. We can categorize each as either Pragmatic Challenges and Idealistic Challenges.
Top Pragmatic Challenges for Architects
1. Efficiently Specifying Materials
Architects don't just "design pretty buildings." Architects are responsible for keeping up with and complying with changing building codes at a minimum and accommodating customer purchase trends in the housing market to be truly successful.
Easily finding the exact right material to accomplish their desired objective in the space is often a tough ask for modern architects who sometimes can, but many times cannot, find the proper information regarding technical product specifications on the manufacturer's website.
In the fast paced digital society all professionals are trying to work in, the delay in acquisition of product information is not something architects can accept from manufacturers anymore. The challenge facing architects is getting manufacturers to understand WHY they need to aggressively move forward with digitizing product specs and increase delivery speeds of product samples.
Architects need to be able to efficiently specify the materials to be used in a build. This brings us to their next challenge.
2. Keeping up with changing technologies
BIMs, CADs, Project management tools, and sample procurement tools from third-parties, manufacturers and distributors who are all doing things a little differently (or not at all) has made digital adoption of product specification harder for architects (even though ease is claimed).
Until the network effect of these SaaS technologies positioned to aid architects in their day to day efforts actually takes root within the entire building materials ecosystem, BIMs, CADs, Project management tools, and sample procurement tools will continue to be another burden on the shoulders of architects.
3. Solving for the Affordable Housing Gap
The increased need for affordable housing alternative has introduced a kink into many of their business models. For architects that historically have focused on acquiring customers building luxury and high dollar properties in order to price based on a percentage of the estimated finished construction cost, affordable housing is simply outside the scope of their typical work.
To add insult to injury, the increased pace necessary for new construction and affordable housing to be constructed has decreasing the value of new designs and increased the value of spec builds and large development projects for which a major architectural firm often wins the project.
While a challenge, this is also a unique opportunity for architects to design affordable housing options and get into the market for adaptive reuse projects in order to adjust to market demands and keep their business model profitable in years ahead.
4. Navigating the Political Landscape
Working with City Planners / Urban Planners and local governments to implement housing developments and community infrastructure projects is not for the feeble minded. Architects involved in urban development projects are faced with an onslaught of political and interpersonal challenges daily as they work to please their client and overcome bureaucratic red tape at each step of the project.
There has been an increased push for architects to become involved in local government, contributing to their city councils on matters of building codes and fire codes, as well as urban development and community planning discussions. The lobbying functions of the AIA is another avenue architects can consider involvement in. Whatever the route of political involvement, balancing that role with their day to day responsibilities within an architecture firm presents an additional challenge for these architects. Resolution, mediation, and decisiveness are required.
In the words of J. Christopher Ball, AIA, of Jack Ball Architects, in Springfield, Mo., who has served as president for his city and state AIA chapters as well as on state boards and committees, “It’s what we do every day: Resolve what this group wants, what that group can afford, and how we can make it work for everyone,” Ball says.
5. Bridging the generational gap
Mid-level architects are facing a two front battle in maintaining quality of knowledge at their firms. There is increasing loss of tribal knowledge from highly experienced senior architects and increasing naivety of entry level architects to the operations of the architecture world. As mid-level architects work to capture as much experience and wisdom from retiring architects, they are simultaneously tasked with training and managing the fresh ones. It doesn't help that most manufacturers do not have product information neatly organized or organized in any consistent way, so architects must find their own ways to organize product information. Reducing the number of mistakes new architects make and reducing the amount of time to competency
6, Coping with Value Engineering
For simplicity sake, 2021 building material costs were 13% higher compared to 2020. Yes, there are variations depending on market segment, but overall, architects can consider a 13% higher cost for project build. This means that they must up their client delight measures, specify well, and acquire the right fit clientele that can cope with those higher costs for design and build. While value-engineering has been an age old problem between architects and builders, rising material costs coupled with inventory and supply chain constraints is causing more of the final specification to be made by the general contractor overseeing the build. In some ways, the role of architects has become idilic more than concrete during this season where builds need to happen quickly, and product availability guarantees need to be made.
7. Actively, and deeply, listening to consumersWhile not architect-centric, I would suggest that a lack of customer-centric listening by architects, builders, and building products manufacturers alike is the biggest challenge facing architects. The MO of the architect is to be a leader, not a follower. To follow and respond to the needs of the customer rather than to define and shape the culture is a reality architects need to grapple more with. The flattening of the industry and the decrease in “need” for an architect to be local has perpetrated an inherent sameness and level of denseness to the customer. This mindset is not helping the traditional building process stay relevant against disruption. The good news is that this challenge is one that each person can actually control. Even better is to collaboratively listen to share customers from an ecosystem mindset. Hearing what customers want versus designing for what architects think customers should want are two very different approaches. The former is what will define the success of an architect’s designs.
8. Playing nice with others
Just like any service business, architects have two primary struggles; one is to have enough clients and the second is to have enough cash. Because of the tensions between architects and builders, each professional has typically gone their separate way and done as much as the can to make the shared client be the go-between party between them and the builder. In the building and remodeling market of 2022, clients are expecting their service provider to remove the hassle factor from their project on their behalf. This means that what customers want is for architects and builders to work better together.
There is similarly a tension between architects and building products manufacturers, mostly due to frustration that architects feel constantly bombarded by sales pitches rather than listened to and accommodated.
For architects in 2022, to take time and focus on establishing mutually beneficial relationships with builders and other members in the distribution channel is a market necessity that many architects are struggling to accept as reality for their success.
Idealistic Challenges Facing Architects in 2022
Beyond the tactical challenges facing many architects, they face many internal battles for satisfaction in their day-to-day roles.
9. Getting Time to Play
Having time to slow down and think, to embrace and explore new ideas, or even hand sketch something that they want to capture is a rare activity for many modern architects.
10. Being Respected
A lack of feeling seen and respected is common among architectural professionals. Much like with everything else, nobody notices when an architect did a great job. Everyone notices when they did a poor job, not to mention the tension that exists between builders and architects as it is.
11. Making a Difference
Architects are looking to make a positive impact, but don't get many opportunities to do so. Those that do have hit the big leagues of architecture, but most architects are completing projects that are less than exciting to talk about over dinner.
12. Having Passion
Daily overcoming disillusionment of their role when scouring manufacturers websites for incomplete product specs that won't integrate to the BIM properly while the latest compliance materials are accruing in their inbox is definitely a challenge for architects. Reigniting their passion for why they chose to be an architect in the first place is a resulting challenge.
Why Manufacturers Should Care
The manufacturers who can help architects reignite their passions, find more time for creativity and energizing activities, and who uplift architects in the building products industry will be one step closer to building a positive brand that architects prefer specifying.
Learn about other buyer personas by downloading the End User Buyer Personas Guide.