AIA Arizona members thriving and forging ahead with diverse projects.
Despite tough economic times, there are innovative architectural firms and members of AIA Arizona that are thriving and pushing ahead in a shallow market pool. There are many reasons these firms are doing well, some of which may be surprising.
Open to Risk and Flexibility
One thing most successful firms can agree upon is that being open to taking risks with both design and in diverse markets, is a major key to staying busy in a slow economy. Kim Fernandez of ABA-Architects details that, “you have to be a risk taker and push for the growth of the firm.”
Additionally, Eddie Jones of Jones Studio asserts that his firm’s success comes from being open to new opportunities when they present themselves and successful firms a have a sort of “fearlessness,” in accepting diverse projects. Andrew McCance of Andrew A McCance, Architect took the biggest risk when he went out on his own three years ago.
“I started my company on my own three years ago and I am still here and working,” he says. The risk takers in architecture seem to be those who are leading the way in success during this tough economy.
In addition to taking risks, firms must be flexible with how they approach business. Those who are flexible are often able to maneuver into an optimal and timely position.
Mike Medici of SmithGroup explains that one way his firm is staying successful is by being at the right place in the market at the right time. Fernandez has also found that a need to tap markets her firm would not have gone to in the past is important. She asserts that firms really need to go for the work and expand their circle.
ABA-Architects in Tucson has ventured to Arizona’s neighbor, New Mexico, to find some success in the Southwest part of that state. The DLR Group is finding flexibility in staffing by being able to utilize its Arizona talent pool to balance with its national offices in a work share agreement.
Tom O’Neil, principal at DLR Group says, “This way we can keep talented people and keep tax-paying employees in Arizona.” This flexibility has proven lucrative for firms proving that flowing with the market can provide success even when that market is flowing a bit slower than the industry would like.
A major driving force in finding new business opportunities is sustainability. With the Architect 2030 initiative, which challenges the building community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by the year 2030, as a guide, many firms are striving toward green building practices as never before.
“Sustainability is a driving force with government and university projects because they are looking at usable facilities for long stretches of time,” Medici explains. “Thirty or 50 years into the future they want to still be able to utilize their space efficiently.”
SmithGroup’s work with the University of Hawaii at Hilo proves this dedication with a design that integrates harmoniously with the surrounding landscape. Another design firm driven by the 2030 initiative is DLR Group. O’Neil explains that “energy modeling” is paramount in sustainability helping drive new business and cut costs for clients.
Fernandez has also found that federal projects are one of the leading sources for her firm’s project proposals. These projects require builders to use sustainable practices and track those practices clearly. Additionally, Henry Tom with Line and Space tells of how its work with the San Diego National Wildlife Preserve (above) pushes the team to hold to its role as a leader in “resource-conserving design.”
He explains that much of its work puts the firm in contact with environmentalists who are working to preserve those areas and want their architecture to do the same. The DLR Group’s Arizona office is in the building stages of a “near NetZero” elementary school in Paradise Valley, which is utilizing not only less energy but is striving toward sustainability with rainwater collection initiatives and other innovative strategies.