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33rd Annual Metal Architecture Architects Survey

Ma Arch Survey Mar19 1

The year 2018 will likely be known in the annals of construction as the year of the labor shortage. Especially among trade workers, we face a dire scarcity of people to do the work. The shortage is the result of a combination of issues, as we reported in our special issue of Metal Construction News in July 2018, but the gulf between the available work and the available workforce grew even greater in 2018 because the industry has been in a robust expansion.

Our 33rd annual survey of architects reflects that as most overall construction numbers increased in 2018, and even those specific to metal construction—metal roofing, metal walls, metal building systems, etc.—also went up.

Just in December, the construction industry created 100,000 new job openings, and the ratio between unemployment and job opening rates in the industry is 1.32. In other words, for every unemployed worker in construction, there are 1.32 job openings.

The lack of skilled workers does not affect architects directly, but it does mean that general contractors and trade contractors are being more careful about the work they take on, and probably bidding work at higher costs. (That said, wage growth in the U.S. economy still has not grown as steeply as economists have feared, especially at the lower end of the wage pool, and inflation has been kept in check.)

The industry is in a strong position going into 2019. That is in spite of fears over the affect the steel and aluminum tariffs would have on both rising costs and building product material availability. Both concerns may have been overblown. Our report in April 2018 revealed that many economists in the construction industry were worried that the tariffs would cause the contraction of the industry to come a little sooner.

The 2019 Dodge Construction Outlook from Dodge Data & Analytics, New York City, predicts U.S. nonresidential construction will match its 3 percent increase from 2018 in 2019 in spite of a decrease in commercial construction of about 3 percent. Offsetting those declines will be gains in institutional, industrial and manufacturing.

According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), single-family starts will increase 4.7 percent to 927,000 starts in 2019. By 2020, starts will increase to an annual rate of 979,000. However, the good news in the single-family market is offset by a cooling in the multifamily. After a rise of 7.6 percent in 2018, topping at 356,000 starts, there will be a downturn over the next two years. NAHB predicts a 4.4 percent decline in 2019 and another 0.5 percent decline in 2010.

The residential home improvement market has been on a tear for the last several years, clocking in at over 5 percent annual increases and topping at nearly 7.5 percent increases in the last several quarters. The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University forecasts a slowing in the increase of activity. After hitting 7.5 percent growth in 2018, the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity shows a slowing to 5.1 percent growth. That still represents more than $350 billion in remodeling activity.

Percentage of Respondents Who Specify Metal Building Products

General Statistics

This year, the respondents to our survey represented firms that were more likely to do architecture compared to the 2018 respondents. Nearly 60 percent of survey takers indicated they worked in an architecture firm, compared to 50 percent last year. The next largest cohort of respondents worked for design-build companies, but that also changed from last year’s survey. This year, 17.4 percent of respondents work in design-build; last year, that group made up 23.8 percent of respondents.

Year over year, there was also a change in the positions respondents held within those companies. While the overwhelming majority still identify as owners or partners in the firms ( 58.2 percent) that is fewer than last year’s 67.3 percent. Among the other firm positions we identify, there is a relatively even breakout of staff architects, company managers, engineers and others. We had very few interior designers, exterior designers, interns or specification writers respond.

We identified four regions in the country, East, South, Midwest and West, and the respondents evenly represent those regions. Throughout the survey, it’s interesting to see the different characteristics each region takes on regarding the type of metal roofing, metal wall and building systems work they specify. Even within green technologies, there are variations from region to region.

In a growing construction economy, it’s unsurprising that a vast majority of our respondents report increased billings in 2018 compared to 2017. A total of 78.9 percent indicate their firm’s billings increased in 2018, and about a quarter indicated the increase was less than 5 percent, which tracks with previous years. There was a difference, though, among respondents who reported huge jumps. Last year, only 5.2 percent indicated billings had increased more than 25 percent, but this year, 7.4 percent said they experience a large increase in business in 2018.

Company Type

Position in Firm

Company Location

2018 Approximate Billings

2018 Billings vs. 2017 Billings

Metal Roofing

Of the audience responding to our survey this year, the percentage who indicated they specified metal roofing declined about 10 percentage points compared to last year, coming in at just over a quarter of the respondents. That could be attributed to a number of things, including simply that we were more successful reaching other types of architects than we have in the past. What was interesting, though, was that among those who did specify metal roofing, the percent of new and renovation projects between 2017 and 2018 increased significantly. Among our audience, the likelihood of specifying a metal roof for a new building increased more than 13 percent in 2018, and for a renovation project it went up 10.5 percent.

Nearly 95 percent of respondents indicated they anticipate specifying more or about the same amount of metal roofing in 2019 compared to 2018. That is true across the country, although 7.3 percent of respondents from the South forecast specifying less metal roofing, while no one in the West anticipates a decrease in the amount of metal roofing specified.

When looking at the type of metal roofs architects specify, we found very little difference from previous years. Low-slope standing seam roofs were specified by 45.7 percent of the audience, which is about what the rate was last year. Batten seam, steep-slope, corrugated, insulated metal panels and thru-fastened ribbed panels all were specified at a high rate. The types of metal roofs that were less often specified (individual shingles, stone-coated and painted metal) all tend to be installed on residential properties. That doesn’t mean the incidence of their use is lower, this survey only shows that architects are less likely to specify them. Considering more residential metal roof projects are retrofits and architects are seldom involved, the lower rate is unsurprising.

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 2019 Compared to 2018

Types of Metal Roofs Specified

Metal Roofing Projects Specified, According to Building Size

Percentage of Respondents Who Specify Retrofit Metal Roofing for Existing Buildings

Metal Wall Panels

In result that is similar to the metal roofing results, we experienced a decrease in the percentage of respondents who report they specified metal wall panels in 2018, down to 27.4 percent from 38.3 percent in last year’s survey. However, those who did specify metal walls report a significant increase in the number of projects in which they specified metal walls from 2017 to 2018 at 10.8 percent. Those numbers reflect metal wall use in new construction.

For renovation projects, respondents report another significant increase in 2018 compared to 2017. The 2017 total nationally was 15.2 percent, but for 2018, 17.3 percent specified metal walls, an increase of 13.8 percent.

Respondents from the South were more likely to specify metal walls for both new and renovation construction. Architects in the East fell below the national average in both categories.

The most common type of metal wall panel specified was concealed fastener (60.3 percent of respondents report specifying it) while the least common was individual shingles (8.2 percent) and second least was steel or aluminum plate (16.5 percent).

Last year, our respondents indicated corrugated was the most commonly specified metal wall panel type, which was a notable change from previous years. In this year’s survey, the percentage of respondents specifying corrugated metal wall panels in 2018 fell back to the more normal levels.

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

Of all the metal building products in the metal construction industry, architects are least likely to specify metal building systems. The simple answer is that any building may have a metal roof or metal walls, but only metal buildings use metal building systems.

About 20 percent of our respondents indicate they specified a metal building system for new construction in 2018, which was a 12.8 percent increase over 2017. On renovation projects, 13.5 percent say they specified a metal building system. That represents an increase of 11 percent over 2017. Those rates of specification are about half the rate that last year’s respondents noted, and those numbers were considerably different from previous year’s survey takers. As with previous outliers, this indicates more a differentiation of the respondent pool than a change in attitudes toward metal building systems.

Nearly 90 percent of our respondents forecast either an increase or equal amount of the number of metal building systems they will specify in 2019. Nearly two-thirds say it will stay same but over a quarter indicate they plan on specifying more metal building systems in 2019.

Metal framing systems follow a similar pattern to metal building systems. Over 30 percent of our respondents report they will increase the number of framing systems they will specify in 2019 while about two-thirds will specify 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 2019 Compared to 2018

Amount of Metal Framing Systems Projected in 2019 Compared to 2018

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.

Across the board, metal product use in LEED designation have continued to hold steady compared to other years. Cool metal roofing, though, showed a marked increase in the number of respondents who say they specified such products in 2018. Previous years, the number of respondents who specified such products hovered around 40 percent, but in 2018, it jumped to nearly 45 percent.

The specification of solar energy products, including photovoltaics and films, looks to have declines in 2018 compared to previous years. Typically, over 30 percent of respondents say they specify solar energy products, but in 2018, that number declined to 27.9 percent. Further indicating a downward trend was the projection of solar panel and photovoltaic usage in 2019. About half the respondents will specify solar products “as we can,” while only a little over 20 percent plan to specify more. That is quite different from previous years, and represents a nearly 7 percentage point drop from last year’s survey.

Further cementing a trend toward less specification is the number of respondents who indicate they don’t plan to use any solar products in 2019 increased to 22.4 percent this year compared to 20 percent last year.

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

(Note: Data for 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 are from the 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 surveys respectively.)

Percentage of Respondents Who Specified Cool Metal Coatings

(Note: Data for 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 are from the 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 surveys respectively.)

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

(Note: Data for 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 are from the 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 surveys respectively.)

Anticipated Usage of Solar Panels and Photovoltaics in 2019