An excellent article in American journal Architectural Record, Future of the A/E/C Industry: 10 Trends, reports the remarks of US architect Raymond Kogan to a recent convention in San Francisco. Kogan outlines ten trends that he thinks will affect the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry, and while only the first one is headed ‘demographics’ the changing balance of the population, and of the AEC industry workforce in particular, is a recurring theme.
- Demographics – Kogan mentions shrinking population, the growth in the over-85 age group, regional disparities and growth among former minority groups, particularly in urban areas.
- Markets – “Demand will be driven by population change, growth, and preferable lifestyles. We need to revitalize and redevelop some areas and repurpose and retrofit others.”
- Technology – Kogan says the biggest new technology is building information modelling (BIM), saying it: “will facilitate – even force – collaboration among historically noncollaborative project team members and foster the integration of design, fabrication, and construction…. BIM will require more up-front intelligence and effort earlier in the design process. It may also widen the gulf between technically proficient young architects and older managers who may not possess those skills.” (see my post Why Generation Y matters)
- Projects. “Integrated project delivery will integrate people, systems, business structures and practices into a collaborative process that harnesses the talents and insights of all participants.” Future project management will also require new and different skills: knowledge of business and finance, communications and psychology.
- People – Smaller employment pools will cause skills shortages as the 33-54 cohort decreases by 6 per cent over the next 15 years, creating ongoing recruitment, retention, and reward challenges (something that firms like HOK have already begun to recognise – see HOK guest post). Also, Kogan believes, future leaders will want constant communication through technology, which means they’re always in touch and able to work, blurring the line between work and life outside of work – in other words, the classic description of Generation Y (or even Generation Z) and its demand for Web 2.0 tools and techniques to support new ways of working.
- Leaders – “Future leaders have to match the culture and quality of the firm. … are there enough people in your talent pool to meet or exceed those needs? What – exactly – are you doing now to develop your firm’s future leadership talent? … There will have to be recognition of our industry’s ‘inbred inertia‘” (something that UK organisations such as Constructing Excellence and its ‘early career’ wing G4C is trying to tackle – see post)
- Industry – Expect consolidation of firms: “the biggest firms will get bigger, overseas firms will increase their foothold, and private equity investments will gain ground,” says Kogan.
- Environment – Increasing pressure to incorporate sustainable design into all projects … will come from employees, among others. Corporate social responsibility is a powerful measure of a company’s reputation when job-hunting say graduates, while 83% of employees say a company’s positive CSR reputation increases their loyalty and motivation. (see also Climate change and social media competitions)
- World – Globalization will be both an opportunity and a threat.
- Your future – Successful AEC firms will plan for the future, and need to envision a range of alternative scenarios.
(Update, 13 August 2009 – Ray Kogan very kindly contacted me to alert me to another Architectural Record article: Understanding megatrends helps firms plan for the future.)
I think Kogan has neatly summarised several trends that can be brought together if firms adopt a joined-up approach to their recruitment, employment and communication policies to nurture more flexible styles of working that place a strong emphasis on collaboration, information-sharing and corporate social responsibility. It is against this background of change that movements such as Be2camp (meeting in Birmingham, UK this week – see Be2camp Brum) are growing, helping (I hope!) construction industry – or Built Environment – people learn about, discuss and develop new ways of working with Web 2.0.