Crosscurrents ahead — proceed with caution and optimism
Monday, July 20, 2020
Our industry appears to have turned a corner. After a disappointing second quarter in which many clients delayed or postponed projects due to safety and economic concerns stemming from the COVID-19 health crisis, more architecture and design (A&D) firms are starting to see a resurgence in client activity.
It may take a while for the industry as a whole to recover, but there is every indication that in the months ahead it will emerge not only intact but even more vital than before.
Within the past several weeks the news from various trade media has been overwhelmingly positive. The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) reported that its Interior Design Billings Index (IDBI) for the month of May jumped nearly 25 points from the month before and client inquiries rose 23 points. More than half of the designers responding to the ASID COVID-19 Pulse Survey for June 23 said they were now not seeing any notable impact of the pandemic on their business. The latest Houzz Renovation Barometer reading for expected activity in the architecture and design services sector in the third quarter rebounded to 67, having fallen to 35 the previous quarter.
These positive trends are encouraging and, in my view, what we should expect to see as the country moves into the next phase of adapting to the presence of the virus. Among the many things that will need to change in order to revive the economy and social activity are the interiors of the places where we live, work, learn, shop, worship, and commune with one another. Healthcare and medical facilities have already made substantial modifications, and more will be needed to ensure patient and staff safety in practices of all kinds.
Early on I predicted that people confined to their homes for weeks and months would want as soon as possible to make changes and renovations to improve both the aesthetics and the functionality of the interiors. And indeed, the trade surveys indicate that is occurring.
In addition to those mentioned above, half the residential remodeling professionals responding to a poll conducted by the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) said they lately were getting requests for projects of better quality and of the same size or larger as before the pandemic hit. As more industries and businesses reopen, I am confident we will see renewed demand for commercial projects as well.
The fact that we are seeing this turnaround not six months later or a year later, but a mere quarter later is testimony to the resilience of our industry. Thankfully, up to now the impact of the crisis has not been as bad as what the industry suffered as a result of the Great Recession. And the recovery, it seems, will be much quicker.
Yes, there are still challenging times ahead. The recurrence of outbreaks and renewed closings likely will lead to more postponements and dampen some of the expectations for increased business. Problems with product and materials availability, shipping delays, and a shortage of skilled labor will add to designers’ difficulties. But these are only temporary setbacks.
Designers have every reason to be optimistic that as conditions allow, they will be called upon once again to make our lives better however the future unfolds.
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