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37th Annual MA Architects Survey

Architects report increased activity in 2022 and expect more in 2023

America Place Mar20 6

Last year was a good year for architects, according to the respondents to the 37th Annual Metal Architecture Architects Survey. Across the board—metal roofing, metal walls, metal building systems, light-gauge steel framing—they reported increased activity over 2021. Many of the survey takers saw as much as a 15% increase in the number of projects they specified with these materials. Even in the renovation market for roofing and walls, they reported increases.

That’s not surprising in the face of the overall construction market. Dodge Data & Analytics reported construction starts increased in 2022 by 17% over the previous year. That was much greater than the anticipated 6% increase. The total value of 2022 construction was $1.083 trillion. In its end-of-year report, though, the company says 2023 will be flat, with only a 0.7% increase in starts.

Part of the reason is the cooling residential market, which is already declining, and the single-family market will probably drop another 6% in 2023, according to Dodge. However, multi-family will increase about 1%.

The real story is that 2023 will see flat construction growth only because of a huge increase in non-building construction (up 16%) due, in large part, to the money flowing because of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. According to Dodge, that increase will offset declines in commercial construction (-3%) and manufacturing (-43%).

Our survey takers are still optimistic, though. About a third of them say they will do more metal roofing and wall panel projects in 2023, and 20% will specify more metal building systems. Not all the respondents did everything, of course. You can see in the “Percentage of Respondents Who Specify Metal Building Products” chart that incidence of participation by building product. For metal roof systems, 63.3% of survey takers specified at least one. Metal wall systems was 65.3%, metal building systems 63.3% and metal framing systems 62.2%. Looking to 2023, the number of respondents who report doing at last one of those types will remain about the same.

Percentage of Respondents Who Specify Metal Building Products

General Statistics

More than half of the respondents to this year’s survey were architectural firms (52.3%) and about 16% were design-build. That tracks closely to the respondents we had last year, but in in this year’s survey, there was an increase in the number of firms that were architectural/engineering (from 9.4% to 15.9%).

At those firms, most of the respondents were owners/partners (71%), which is typical. They are the best positioned to answer all the questions. Other than in the South (56.3%), there was consistent representation of owners/partners by region. Overall, the East had the lowest participation rate, (17.8%) while the South and West were nearly identical, representing about 29% of the participants.

Unlike last year, though, we had a much larger participation of large firms. More than 20% of the respondents worked at firms with billings greater than $10 million. Smaller firms (under $1 million) account for nearly half of the participants, which is typical year to year with this survey. The shift from last year to this year, besides the increase in the largest firms, is the decrease in firms doing between $1 million and $2.5 million (from 22.3% in 2022 to 9.5% this year).

In somewhat of a surprise given media reports about the economy, only about a quarter (23.8%) of survey takers say their revenues dipped in 2022. The previous year, which didn’t feature the same growth levels, nearly 35% reported declining revenues. The region that stands out in this trend is the South that had the fewest respondents (12.9%) reporting a billing decline. More than half of respondents saw an increase of less than 10%.

Company Type

Position in Firm

Company Location

2021 Approximate Billings

2021 Billings vs. 2020 Billings

Metal Roofing

Last year, 63.3% of respondents reported they did at least one metal roofing project. That was up from 59.2% who said they did one the previous year. The same group anticipates about 64.3% will do one in 2023. For all intents and purposes, that is a relatively flat line and suggests there is little change in this population.

When asked about doing retrofit metal roofs on existing buildings, 44.7% say they do, but compared to last year that is quite a change. In the 2022 survey, only 31% of respondents did that kind of project. As the amount of renovation work becomes greater than new construction work, this trend is not surprising, but the quickness of the change is.

Survey takers report 31.6% of their new construction projects in 2022 featured a metal roof, while 16.3% of their renovation projects did. Both of those were up slightly over 2021 but not significantly. New projects are up 15.7% and renovation increased 1.2%. In both markets, the West was the region that reported the greatest growth (30% in new and 11.5% in renovation) while the East reported the least (4.9% in new and a decline of 16.5% in renovation).

While the number of respondents projecting they will do a metal roofing project in 2023 (64.3%) is about the same that did in 2022, a number of companies expect to do more projects. In fact, 32.2% of survey takers indicate they will increase the number of projects with metal roofs, while 64.4% anticipate about the same, and only 3.4% figure they will do fewer.

Every year, our respondents report they are more likely to specify a standing seam metal roof than any other kind (43.2% for low slope and 27.2% for steep slope), but over the last few years, batten seam roofs have increased in likelihood, with 39.5% of respondents saying they did one in 2022. There was one major decline this year compared to last. Corrugated roofing was far less likely to be specified this year (27.2%) than last (43.2%).

More than 60% of projects were, on average, less than 20,000 square feet and only 15% were greater than 50,000 square feet. There was a slight increase in the larger projects compared to last year, which may be attributed to the increased use of metal buildings in warehouses and the increased construction of warehouses.

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 2022 Compared to 2021

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 2022, over 63% of survey takers reported they did at least one metal wall panel project, which was an 18.5% increase over 2021. Of the number of projects done in 2022, 28.7% of the new work included metal walls and 16.3% of the renovation work included metal walls. Both of those are slight increases (8% for new and 6.8% for renovation) compared to 2021. The good news for the metal construction industry is that nearly 30% of our respondents anticipate specifying more metal wall work in 2023 and only 6.3% think they will do less.

When looking at regional participation in these projects, an interesting anomaly arises. In the East there was a sharp decline (11.7%) of new construction projects involving metal wall panels in 2022 compared to 2021. However, on the renovation side, the number of projects increased 28.2%. That may be attributable to an older building and housing stock in the East. Within that region, there is also a much higher anticipation of doing metal wall panel work in 2023 (45.5%) compared to the national average of 28.8%.

Concealed fastener wall panels were, once again, the most commonly specified metal wall panel with 56.9% of survey takers saying they used that type. That’s comparable to previous years as is the exposed fastener (43.2%) and metal-faced composite (21.6%). Two types of metal wall panels showed declines. Corrugated decreased from 59.5% in 2021 to 45.9% in 2022, which tracks with the decline in specifying that material for roofing. Also, there was a huge decline in the number projects featuring perforated/expanded metal from 57.7% in 2021 to 24.3% in 2022. It’s too early to say the increasing use of that kind of material has run its course, but that is a noticeable change in usage.

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 2022 Compared to 2021

Types of Metal Wall Panels Specified

Metal Buildings and Metal Framing Systems

The respondents to the 2023 architects survey are slightly more likely to have specified at least one metal building system (MBS) than those who replied to the 2022 survey. This year, 63.3% of survey takers said they completed an MBS project the previous year, while last year it was 57.2%. Looking to 2023, about the same percentage of respondents this year (64.3%) expect to complete at least one MBS.

More than a quarter of the new construction projects completed among respondents included an MBS in 2022, which was a 15.4% increase over 2021. The greatest growth came in the West, where there was a more than 50% increase in the number of projects, while the East and South experienced very slight—could be called flat—declines. Again, as with metal wall panels, there was a significant increase in renovation among companies in the East, jumping 25%, but that’s based on a low number of renovation projects being done in that region (5% in 2022). Nationally, 11.9% of renovation projects in2022 were MBS, which was a 14.7% increase over 2021 (10.4%).

Reflecting the general optimism about 2023, 21.9% of our respondents expect to complete more MBS projects in 2023 and only 5.5% think they will see a decline. On the metal framing side, those numbers track almost exactly that same with 20% expecting an increase.

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 2022 Compared to 2021

Amount of Metal Framing Systems Projected in 2022 Compared to 2021

Green Technologies

Year to year, one of the surprising responses in our surveys is the relatively flat results for green technologies. LEED certification, cool metal roofs and photovoltaics all tend to get about the same response for survey takers about their implementation. The trend lines on the charts that go back to 2013 show little change over the years. Certainly, there are fluctuations from year to year, but not significant long-term changes.

In 2022, 30.7% of our respondents said they would specify metal building products to achieve LEED certification, 39.7% specified cool metal coatings and 32.4% specified solar collector products such as photovoltaics and films. It is especially confounding that the incidence of use of solar products has not climbed significantly given the ever-reducing cost.

LEED certification peaked in 2015 with 34% of respondents saying they specified metal building products for LEED certification that year, but over the last few years it has averaged between 25% and 30%. That’s still not a huge change in attitude.

Last year, respondents who specified cool metal coatings hit a 10-year low when only 33.1% indicated they purposely specified these coatings. This year, it jumped back up to levels we saw in 2017 through 2019. Again, the trend line is flat.

When you look at what architects anticipate specifying for solar panels and photovoltaics in 2023, about a third say they will do more. That’s an increase from the 25% who said so about 2022, but the number who say they will specify no solar products this year is about the same as last year (22.1% in 2023 and 25.8% in 2022).

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

Percentage of Respondents Who Specified Cool Metal Coatings

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

Anticipated Usage of Solar Panels and Photovoltaics in 2022