Firms Report Improved Business Conditions
In June, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) released its monthly Architectural Billings Index (ABI) with U.S. architecture firms reporting strong business conditions in May. The ABI was 108 (any index reading above 100 indicates growth in activity) for the month, with 22 percent of firms reporting significantly stronger project activity and 14 percent reporting declines. While this increase comes on top of already solid gains through the first four months of the year, the ABI dropped four points from April to May. The pace of billings growth has slowed in relation to previous months, but continues to increase at a healthy rate. Through the first five months of the year, the ABI has averaged over 112, pointing to significant gains in construction activity throughout the remainder of 2004.
Highlights from the May report include:
* In addition to gains in billings, architecture firms reported steady increases in inquiries for new projects.
* Firms in all regions reported improvement in billings with residential focused firms reporting the most positive business conditions, while institutional firms reported modest slippage in billings.
* Improved economic conditions are beginning to produce inflation affecting the
construction sector in the form of higher prices for commodity materials (steel, cement, insulation, etc.).
"While it is extremely encouraging that architectural billings and inquiries have increased every month so far this year, the rising prices and availability of construction materials has created some problems for the construction industry," said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Ph.D. "Architecture firms of all sizes and in all regions are also reporting problems with building commodities, with a higher share of firms in the West making this claim, possibly because of the strong demand in China and other Asian countries for these resources."
The Architectural Billings Index is collected from the Work-on-the-Boards survey, which is produced by the AIA Economics & Market Research Group. The findings amount to a strong predictive economic indicator that can provide a six- to eight-month glimpse into the future of non-residential construction activity. The indexes contained in the report are derived from a monthly survey sent to a panel of AIA member-owned firms.
Tackling AIDS and Building Goals
Architecture for Humanity, a non-profit organization that promotes architecture and design solutions to humanitarian crises, announces Siyathemba, an international design competition to develop a football (soccer) facility for young girls in Somkhele, South Africa. Siyathemba is the Zulu word for hope.
In many parts of Africa sporting activities, especially football (soccer), are being
incorporated into a variety of programs geared toward helping youth address a broad range of issues affecting their lives. By emphasizing a "team" approach, these programs help impart the skills needed by the next generation to overcome the many challenges faced by their countries, from poverty to HIV/AIDS, malnutrition to educational access.
Starting July 1, 2004, Architecture for Humanity is challenging the creative world to design the perfect pitch in Somkhele, an area with one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the world. This facility, run by medical professionals from the Africa Center for Health and Population Studies, will serve as a gathering place for youth between the ages of nine and 14, and will serve as the home for the first-ever girls football league in the area. The pitch will also act as a place to disseminate information on HIV/AIDS
prevention and treatment and eventually as a service point for mobile healthcare.
Participants will be challenged to employ sustainable and/or local building material using local labor to realize their design. The facility is to include a youth-sized field, sideline benches and a small changing room. The entire facility should be built for $5,000. The entry fee for the competition is $20 ($30 for late registration) and designs are due by October 1, 2004. As with all Architecture for Humanity projects, entry fees from developing countries and communities in need are waived.
In mid-October, a team of internationally renowned designers, landscape architects, medical and sports professionals will select three finalists and up to 12
honorable mentions. From the three finalists, the winning design will be chosen by
members of the Somkhele Girls Football team. The winning design will be announced on World AIDS day (December 1, 2004) at an exhibition to be held in New York, NY.
With funds raised from the competition entry fee, donations and a generous grant made by the Red Rubber Ball Foundation, the winning concept will be built in 2005. For further information, visit www.architectureforhumanity.org.
Pebble Project Grows
Four more hospitals have joined the Center for Health Design's Pebble Project research initiative, bringing the total number of current partners to 19. All plan to build or renovate facilities in which data that measures the benefits of design interventions will be collected.
Edward Plainfield Hospital, part of Edward Hospital & Health Services in Naperville, IL, is planning a two-phase project, the first of which is to construct a three-story (with basement) medical office building and outpatient center. The second phase will be the construction of a new 146-bed, 299,929-square-foot hospital, complete with ancillary services, a 20-bay emergency department and six surgical suites. The architecture firm for both phases is Matthei Conlin Associates.
St. Elizabeth's Hospital, which is part of the Affinity Health System in Appleton, WI, is renovating a birthing unit, emergency department and inpatient unit. Measurements will include noise levels, sleep quality, staff fatigue, staff productivity and work process, staff satisfaction and safety. Hammel Green and Abrahamson is the design firm.
Shawnee Mission Medical Center in Shawnee Mission, KS, is building a 204,000-square-foot, five-story patient tower, which will house a new emergency department, surgery department, laboratories and an acuity adaptable cardiac care unit. HMN Architects and NBBJ are the design firms for the project.
St. Benedict's, which is part of St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, plans to build a $16 to $18 million, 25-bed inpatient hospital. Future plans include
the addition of a long-term care center, outpatient center and medical office complex.
Launched in 2000, the purpose of the Pebble Project is to create a ripple effect in the healthcare community by providing research and documented examples of projects that have created life-enhancing environments for patients, families and staff. For more information, visit www.pebbleproject.org.
A Walk on the Wild Side
Humanscale will hold its fifth annual Faces in the Wild competition and auction to
benefit the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on September 28. Last year's event generated over 350 attendees and earned more than $25,000 for WWF, including a matching gift by Humanscale. For the first time, Faces in the Wild will also include a live auction on the Humanscale Web site to allow for greater participation worldwide and exposure for these incredible art pieces.
To participate in the event, designers are invited to submit artwork of any type (mask, sculpture, painting, drawing, photograph, woven design, etc.) that represents the face of a non-domesticated animal. All entries must be: tangible (printed matter, painted matter,
photography, sculpture, etc.); easily transportable; made from environmentally-friendly, non-perishable materials; and representative of the face of a non-domesticated animal. Electronic entries cannot be accepted.
In addition to the auction, all entries will be judged by a panel representing a wide range of design disciplines, with a winner selected in each of the following categories:
* Best Use of Environmental Materials
* Best Representation of the Essence of the Animal (personality, presence, look)
* Best Overall Design
Winners, who will each receive either a Humanscale Freedom chair or the new Humanscale Liberty chair, will be announced at the event on Tuesday, September 28 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Humanscale showroom in New York, NY. Attendees will include supporters of WWF in and around New York City, members of the A & D community, facility managers, consumers from the New York metro area and press.
To contribute a piece of original artwork, please contact Karen Brooking at (212) 353-1383 or e-mail Karen@bdeonline.biz. Submissions must be received by September 10.