COVID-19 Business resources to thrive

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Architects are uniquely positioned to align human health, climate health, and design thinking to improve lives. There is no doubt that the drops in architectural billings we witnessed in March and April and the sharp rise in April’s unemployment numbers will reverberate throughout the profession and throughout the year. However, architects have a vital role to play in not just the economic recovery of cities, states, and nations, but also in forging a new era of public health awareness and risk mitigation.

It is crucial that architects broadly communicate how our holistic, problem-solving, design-thinking skills can assist clients in enduring through this time of COVID-19 and help them emerge more strongly positioned.

Architects can and must underscore their value to their clients, across all project types, in the short term during budgetary triage and in the long term as strategic design solutions continue to be seen as good investments.

Designing adaptable spaces, selecting healthy materials, advising on the life cycle of a building, or incorporating natural and filtered ventilation are just some of the jobs architects can undertake while the fate of larger jobs is debated.

These skills—and more—remain valuable and marketable aspects of the architect’s training and expertise during this current downturn.

This is a time for architects to thrive in a challenging economic climate, but it is no time to ignore the dangerous ecological crisis. By taking action on every project to reduce carbon emissions and eliminate inefficiencies in energy usage (and building systems in general), you can leverage an already laudable 4 percent reduction in carbon emissions. As economic activity resumes, architects can and should lead the effort to meet Paris Agreement standards. Your economic survival can also be the planet’s ecological survival. It is the only way to align human health, climate health, and design thinking in the spirit and practice of sustainability.

A roadmap to reach the other side

While no one yet has all the answers on how design will change as a result of these extreme conditions, it is important to communicate that architects’ design-thinking skills are extremely valuable in helping clients consider each unique project’s needs and circumstances. We spend approximately 87 percent of our time indoors, and the well-known and direct links between human health in spaces that are designed to encourage walkability, use of natural daylight, and views of nature have been studied, institutionalized, and accepted.

An AIA task force has gathered key talking points and resources that architects can use when speaking with clients to reinforce the many ways that our insights and services are of great importance and value to them, now and in the future. This work is focused on three key areas: why architects and design matter, business and financial strategies, and construction and shovel-ready project strategies.

The Great Recession showed us that hustle and enterprise and a will to keep projects moving forward will pay off as the recession fades. Ensuring projects can keep architects working, keep clients paying, and keep mitigating climate change will not only benefit architecture, but also society as a whole. This is the focus of the COVID-19 AIA Business Task Force and the spirit of our work. We hope you find these resources valuable when you speak with your clients and as you chart a course through a survivable recession.

This is part of a series of articles commissioned by the AIA COVID-19 Business Task Force in May 2020 to help architects. Learn more about business strategies you can employ now and construction-ready projects you can plan for later.

Task Force

Dan Hart, FAIA; Steve Coe, AIA; Chip Desmone, AIA; Ryan Johnson, AIA; Evelyn Lee, AIA; Britt Lindberg, AIA; Mark Levine, FAIA; Cyrus Rivetna, AIA; Michael Strogoff, FAIA

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Group of architects working