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32nd Annual Architects Survey

Arch Survey Feb18 1

For the second year in a row the Annual Metal Architecture Architects Survey showcases the strength of the construction industry. Almost without fail, all the numbers point to 2017 as a stronger year than 2016, which was stronger than 2015. In our 32nd annual survey, architects are feeling positive about the industry and are hopeful for 2018. 

There are, though, a couple of clouds on the horizon, and one major issue challenging the industry: the shortage of skilled labor. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the construction industry added 226,000 new jobs for the 12-month period ending in January 2018, which is a 3.3 percent increase. Finding workers, especially skilled workers, to fill those positions is a demanding challenge.

While architects aren’t directly affected by the labor shortage, they do see delays in material delivery and increased costs in a more competitive labor market. For the foreseeable future, that trend looks to hold true. The 2018 Dodge Construction Outlook from Dodge Data & Analytics, New York City, predicts U.S. construction starts will increase 4 percent in 2018 and another 3 percent in 2019. Back out the multifamily housing and electrical utilities and gas plants segments, which will take big hits this year, and the growth of the industry jumps to 5 percent.

The National Association of Home Builders expects 2018 to be another strong year overall for the housing market, predicting 2.7 percent growth in housing starts. That increase is being driven by a predicted 5 percent increase in single-family housing starts. As mentioned, a poor multifamily market will hold down the overall growth.

In a real bright spot, the remodeling market looks to have one of the biggest increases in more than a decade, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. Its Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity model anticipates a 7.5 percent increase in 2018. For architects in the metal construction market, that means a potential for more metal roof installation and, perhaps, increased use of metal wall panels, especially in the custom home market.

In our annual survey, those predictions are borne out by the architects who responded.

Percentage of Respondents Who Specify Metal Building Products

General Statistics

The respondents to our survey represent a decent cross-section of architects and designers working in the metal architecture field. Just over half of them work for architecture firms, while just under a quarter are employed at design-build firms. The remaining quarter are in companies that also feature engineering as a significant component of its work.

By a wide margin, the respondents are owners or partners in their firms (67.3 percent), and the overwhelming portion of respondents are higher-level architects with more experience. Very few interns or others are responding, which means the information we’re receiving is from a fairly sophisticated audience that understands the industry.

The audience is spread evenly throughout the regions of the country, but there is one statistically significant variation that must be noted. Respondents in the South and West are far more likely to be owners or partners in their firms. Compared to previous years, the annual revenues of the respondent’s companies breaks down about the same, with nearly half (43.1 percent) of all survey takers coming from firms with less than $1 million in revenue. Still, the total survey audience is completely dominated by small firms, since 20.1 percent of respondents work for firms with more than $10 million in annual revenue.

Finally, our respondents this year report that 2017 was a better year than 2016, and for nearly 70 percent of them billings were up less than 10 percent, while just about 5 percent had very robust increases of either 25 or 50 percent.

Company Type

Position in Firm

Company Location

2017 Approximate Billings

2017 Billings vs. 2016 Billings

Metal Roofing

In last year’s report, respondents told us they had experience strong growth in the specification of metal roofs in both new and renovation projects. New metal roof projects increased 4.6 percent, while renovation jumped 12.2 percent from 2015 to 2016. The growth of metal roof specifications in 2017 among this year’s respondents has flattened with no significant change between 2016 and 2017. That said, this years’ respondents were much more likely to specify metal roofs in renovations than last year’s respondents.

Low-slope standing seam roofs are the most commonly specified metal roofs (47.5 percent nationally) but are less popular in the East, where batten-seam roofs are specified by 54.8 percent of respondents. The respondents from the East are also more likely to specify insulated metal panels for roofing compared to the national total or to other regions of the country. After a jump in last year’s survey in the specification of insulated metal panels, the respondents this year reported a similar incidence of specification at about a third.

Projecting use in 2018, about a third of architects anticipate specifying more metal roofs, while more than 60 percent will turn to metal roofing about the same as they did in 2017. Only 4 percent predict a decline in 2018. Again, compared to last year’s respondents, these are significant increased. These numbers have held true for the last few years of surveys.   

Project size for metal roofs has stayed steady throughout the years, although nationally the very largest projects represented about 4 percent of all projects compared to 7 percent last year. That change was reflected in an increased in projects between 50,000 and 79,999 square feet.

Percentage of Respondents’ New Construction Projects that Include Metal Roofing

Percentage of Respondents’ Renovation Projects that Include Metal Roofing

Amount of Metal Roofing Projected in 2018 Compared to 2017

Types of Metal Roofs Specified

Metal Roofing Projects Specified, According to Building Size

Percentage of Respondents Who Specify Retrofit Metal Roofing for Existing Buildings

Wall Panels

Nearly 36 percent of our respondents report they specified metal wall panels for new construction projects in 2017, which was just 4.4 percent increase of 2016. Last year’s survey showed a nearly 5 percent increase between 2016 and 2017, indicating metal wall panels are growing in use. Whether that translates to market share increases or just a result of the increase in total projects can’t be determined from this data.

For renovation projects, respondents showed a larger increase (7.2 percent) from 2016 to 2017. Last year, they indicated they used metal wall panels in 32.9 percent of projects. Last year’s respondents, in marked contrast, indicated they only used metal wall panels in 20.7 percent of projects.

For the most part, the use of metal wall panels in both new construction and renovation projects in 2017 was similar in each part of the country, with the Midwest respondents reporting a slightly higher usage than their counterparts in other regions.

The most common type of metal wall panel specified in 2017 was corrugated (57.7 percent), which marks a significant increase over previous years when concealed fastening wall panels dominated the market. That may be a quirk with these respondents, although it holds true across all regions, or an indication of a design trend that is more industrial in nature. Many of the projects we see at Metal Architecture include corrugated metal as both an exterior panel and an interior finish.

Percentage of Respondents’ New Construction Projects that Include Metal Walls

Percentage of Respondents’ Renovation Projects that Include Metal Walls

Amount of Metal Wall Panels Projected in 2018 Compared to 2017

Types of Metal Wall Panels Specified

Metal Buildings and Metal Framing Systems

The specification year over year of metal building systems in new construction and renovation did not move significantly among the respondents to the 32nd annual survey. Both came in at the mid-30 percent with new construction slightly outstripping renovation projects. However, comparing this year’s respondents to last years’, we see a huge increase in specifications of metal buildings. Last year, only 27.1 percent of our respondents indicated they had specified a metal building system for new construction in the year prior, compared to 37.3 percent of this year’s respondents. For renovations, the change was even greater, jumping from 19 percent of last year’s respondents to 33.8 percent of this years’ respondents.

Our survey participants look forward to a slight increase in the use of metal building systems for 2018 compared to 2017, with about a third saying they will do more, but nearly two-thirds feeling it will hold steady.

The story is similar for metal framing systems, with about a third of respondents looking to increase the number of projects for which they specify metal framing systems. Just under 60 percent will keep them about the same.

Percentage of Respondents’ New Construction Projects that Include Metal Building Systems

Percentage of Respondents’ Renovation Projects that Include Metal Building Systems

Amount of Metal Building Systems Projected in 2018 Compared to 2017

Amount of Metal Framing Systems Projected in 2018 Compared to 2017

Green Technologies

The green technologies we survey annually are photovoltaics, cool metal roofing and LEED designation. For this analysis, we compare the simple incidence of use across all these technologies to respondents in previous surveys. After an initial heightened interest in 2011, the answers to these questions have remained essentially unchanged for several years.

That would indicate that the market penetration of these technologies has not changed much, and is borne out by the kinds of projects we see at Metal Architecture. Anecdotally, the number of projects going for LEED designation, using photovoltaics or employing cool metal roofing technologies has not changed.

In 2018, we expect to see the first major change in these areas because of the new 30 percent tariff placed on photovoltaics by President Trump’s administration. Since about 80 percent of all photovoltaics are manufactured off shore, this will have a huge affect on the cost of the technology. And, since the major consideration in using solar energy is the expected payback period, we expect the incidence of photovoltaic specification to plummet in next year’s survey.

It will be interesting to see if this has an additional widening effect on other green technologies such as cool metal roofing.

Percentage of Respondents Who Specified Metal Building Products to Achieve LEED Designation 

(Note: Data for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 are from the 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 surveys respectively.)

Percentage of Respondents Who Specified Cool Metal Coatings

(Note: Data for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 are from the 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 surveys respectively.)

Percentage of Respondents Who Specified Solar Panels, Photovoltaics or Solar Films

(Note: Data for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 are from the 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 surveys respectively.)

Anticipated Usage of Solar Panels and Photovoltaics in 2018