On May 3rd, the American Institute of Architects hosted a webinar on the recovery within the U. S. A/E/C industry. Craig Roberts, Director of Business Development of Reed Construction Data moderated the event and panelists included: Bernard Markstein, Chief Economist of Reed Construction Data; Kermit Baker, Chief Economist of The American Institute of Architects; and Ken Simonson, Chief Economist for The Associated General Contractors of America.
Overall, the speakers agreed that the A/E/C industry is finally showing signs of sustained growth in certain regions and sectors with design revenues and architectural billings increasing in recent months. However, a total non-residential recovery has not occurred.
Specific points about the A/E/C recovery noted by the expert panel included:
- The recent rebound has mainly been within the commercial and industrial sectors.
- Since 1980, U. S. non-residential building construction has averaged about 1.3B square feet / year and the industry clearly has catching up to do. That number has dropped 62% since five years ago.
- Markets currently showing increased activity are: power (including oil and gas structures / pipelines), manufacturing, warehouse / distribution, healthcare, higher education and multi-family. It should be noted that private higher education is on an upswing but public higher education is down by about 33% from its peak three years ago.
- In general, none of the speakers saw much hope for public construction over the next year with stimulus and base realignment initiatives tapering off.
- Regarding construction employment, levels remain at March 2010 numbers and employment varies widely across the U. S.
The positive news of the webinar was that, although there are still obstacles to overcome, the industry is headed in the right direction and should begin to see more movement towards an overall recovery by late 2012 and 2013.