October 27, 2020
The latest Architectural Billings Index was released this week and it was an absolute stunner, in a few ways. First, the scoring was way beyond what I expected or what conventional wisdom was pointing to. After a few months being stuck at 40―remember a score of 50 is break-even―the index shot up to 47 this month. Absolute jaw dropper. The other metrics went up nicely too, including design contracts and design inquiries. So a very positive month, at least I thought so given in the context of what we are all going through, so I was baffled when the comment from the AIA was:
“Despite the multi-family residential sector showing signs of improvement, overall business conditions are recovering at a disappointingly slow pace,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “Other sectors may begin to stabilize in the coming months, but across the board improvement shouldn’t be expected until the economic impact of the pandemic subsides significantly.”
I mean the main index jumped 7 points and is close to break even, how can that be pointed to as a slow pace? Previous months you can use this quote, but when you make a major jump like this, I don’t get it. And quite frankly, I still think this is better than it could’ve been. Obviously, this index is still underwater, and now has been for several months and if it translates correctly mid- to late next year, there should/could be a slowing of construction.
I get the frustration, believe me, I am there, but I think when an index has a massive breakthrough like this, words like “disappointingly” don’t connect for me. Possibly they think or have visibility into next month’s index that makes them feel like this a flukey score? Will next month be ugly then? We’ll see… Stay tuned.
- Also making news this week was a poll on the design of federal buildings that was released and the results were heavy in the favor of “traditional.” The survey was commissioned by the National Civic Art Society and conducted by the Harris Group. Seventy-two percent of the 2,000 surveyed said they want old fashioned traditional versus modern after viewing various pictures. This issue became political as national leaders waded into it, so the survey made news in that aspect too. For me? I like traditional, but I also live for glass and this is probably not great for us. Especially since the glass that would go into a federal building would be big-time value added too (protective, etc.). We’ll see how this all plays out. The details of the report can be found here.
- My friend, the sales consultant rainmaker Sam Benowitz had a really strong post on LinkedIn last week. Straight and to the point on integrity and our current world with regards to it. Good stuff by Sam, check it out.
- Excited to announce next week on here I’ll have an interview with Patrick MacLeamy former CEO of HOK. It was his book about HOK, “Designing a World-Class Architecture Firm,” that I just read and reviewed on here and I was thrilled to be able to get an interview with him. Good stuff ahead!
- I thought I was having a dream (nightmare) this week when I saw a story online featuring Marc LaFrance of the DOE talking about new window technology. But it was not a dream, (nightmare) this was real. And then I saw Jeff Baker quoted and the old, familiar cold sweats then started in.
I was immediately sent back 16 years to the start of the NFRC adventures. In this current case, it was like the more things change the more they stay the same. The push is for new window technology, dynamic technology and there’s money to be had from the DOE. Sadly, I am sure the same cast of characters from the bad ‘ole days of NFRC will all be in line with their hands out. Nothing usable will come of this but a bunch of labs and consultants will get some cash. Yes, I have a grudge that dates to 2004 here and I’m still banging that drum. Bottom line is I would love that we as an industry jump all over any and all opportunities here, I just don’t trust those involved in the process.
- Last this week, two more spots on my “Influential 15.”
These are folks that in my opinion over the last 15 years of my blogging have been most influential in our industry. First up is Bernard Lax of Pulp Studios. This comment will probably get me in trouble; there is no better specialty glass fabricator than Bernard and Pulp. He’s constantly changing the game and, as I noted last week with W&W pushing the envelope, Bernard absolutely lives outside of the box. He’s forced people in that segment to get better to keep up and that is good for our world for sure. And Bernard is absolutely unafraid to share his opinions to help our industry grow, and that is a trait that I think most on my list share and one I really appreciate.
The other spot on my list goes to Rob Struble of Vitro, formerly known as PPG. Sure, I mention how Rob’s clothing choices for the sales teams are always top notch, but there is so much more there. Rob completely changed the communication and messaging game in our industry, and we all follow the paths he’s laid out. Rob’s usage of microsites and focus on education were big steps when no one else were taking them. His sharp branding approaches were amazing especially when you consider he had to maintain and cultivate an old brand in PPG and then quickly transform Vitro into a larger presence. Neither were easy lifts. Part of being influential is when someone creates something, then you see many others emulate or imitate, and that has happened and keeps happening with Rob. Plus, I am jealous of Rob’s skillset overall; good man who speaks softly but carries the big communication stick. So that is two more spots filled with 10 left, and as I was pulling this together it really was a lot of trips down memory lane but also recollection of maneuvers that made our industry better or different and those who know me know I am all about that.