The Top 250 Design Survey 2019: Designers weigh in on a market that is dynamic but far from robust – Oct 2019

By Darius Helm

 

The commercial interiors landscape is in the midst of a transformation that has energized everyone from architects and designers to manufacturers and end users, despite challenging market conditions across several commercial segments and a healthy dose of economic uncertainty, both nationally and globally.

Driving the transformation of the commercial market is a range of related trends, including the resimercial trend (also called “soft contract”), the wellness movement, biophilia, adapting to the Millennial mindset, the shift from carpet to hard surface flooring-and its incidental impact on acoustics-and the focus on material health.

It’s a shame that we don’t get to see how this movement would develop with a robust economy to drive it, instead of the do-more-with-less and do-it-faster environment today’s architects and designers face.

As Santo Torcivia of Market Insights pointed out in a recent FloorDaily podcast, with consumer spending responsible for two-thirds of the U.S. economy, the threat of a recession-and the concomitant tightening of consumers’ purse strings-can in and of itself force the economy to stall. Torcivia points out that the savings rate is rising, suggesting people are banking their money rather than spending it.

The American Institute of Architect’s (AIA) Architecture Billing Index (ABI), reflecting demand for design services, indicates a “continued slowing across the board,” according to Kermit Baker, AIA’s chief economist. He adds, “A growing number of architecture firms are reporting that the ongoing volatility in the trade situation, the stock market and interest rates are causing some of their clients to proceed more cautiously on current projects.”

The ABI fell to 47.2 in August from July’s 50.1. Any score below 50 indicates a decrease in billings. Billings were strongest in the West at 51.2 and weakest in the Midwest at 46.4, with the Northeast at 49.1 and the South at 48.2.

This year, 23% of surveyed designers report that budgets are up, 24% say they’re down, and 53% say they are unchanged. In 2018, 37% up were up, 11% down and 52% flat; and in 2017, 38% were up, 19% down and 43% flat.

For the complete Design Survey results, see the October 2019 issue of Floor Focus Magazine.

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