Technology is changing not only buildings, but also the people who build them. Specialization in architecture is increasingly the norm.
In an ARCHI-TECH survey to which 605 subscribers responded, 71 percent said there will be more specialization in the field in the next 5 years. “Technology is moving so fast, specialization will be required to keep up and stay competitive,” wrote one respondent.
The topic arose at an ARCHI-TECH roundtable, an excerpt of which is on pages 30 to 34. One participant, Don Archiable of Archteck, said that his firm keeps up with the changes in technology by focusing on one area of expertise - i.e. it specializes. Archiable works primarily with broadcast facilities.
Ron Baker of HDR, another architect at the table that day, later discussed the issue in his work life. “Building types in general are becoming more tech-savvy and forcing architects to be more specialized,” he said. About 85 percent of the work in his Omaha office is in health care.
As the speed of change in technology accelerates and competition among architectural firms increases, specialization can be an effective solution. But specialties must be chosen carefully. Too much specialization in too small a market could lead to disaster. That’s why even specialized firms often employ architects who are experts in other fields. A diversified portfolio helps firms weather tough local, regional, and national economic cycles.
The key is balance: finding the right blend of specialized expertise in a range of facility types. As Baker and survey respondents pointed out, clients expect architects to lead a project, fully knowledgeable about the technology that will go into it. Firms need staff members who possess specialized knowledge, but they also need architects with expertise in a broad enough range of facility types to stay afloat.