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AJ100 2019: Practices show resilience amid Brexit turmoil

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How have fees, salaries, working practices and diversity fared for the AJ100 practices? Bruce Tether crunches the data. Additional reporting by Pamela Buxton


Business overview

Despite the shadow of Brexit, AJ100 practices have had a strong 2018 overall. But could the architectural market be approaching a tipping point?

The latest AJ100 survey reveals a resilient performance from the UK’s largest architectural practices, which as a cohort saw increases in architect numbers, salaries and fee income during 2018. But there are already signs that, for this current year, the outcome may be very different.

After a dip last year, the number of UK architects in the AJ100 is on the up again. Overall, the 103 practices in this year’s AJ100 collectively employed 6,972 qualified architects in the UK at the end of 2018 – 190 more than were employed by the 105 practices that comprised last year’s AJ100. 

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011 analysis 1 aj100 190620

Number of UK architects employed by AJ100 practices, 1995 – 2018

The threshold for entry into the rankings has also risen. This year, all AJ100 practices employ at least 28 qualified architects in the UK, up three from last year. Foster + Partners remains top of the pile for the eighth year running, employing 362 qualified architects in the UK, although second-placed BDP is catching up – the practice is just 32 behind at 330. Zaha Hadid Architects (273), Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (266) and Allies and Morrison (182) complete the top five.

Compared with last year, 54 practices have increased their headcount of architects while 32 saw a fall and five remained the same. In absolute numbers, AHMM grew the most (up 29), followed by Zaha Hadid Architects (up 26) with BDP, Darling and Grimshaw all adding at least 20. PLP Architecture and Eric Parry Architects, meanwhile, both reduced their UK architects headcount by 17, while Farrells is down by 15. 

The architectural workload showed a lot of resilience, and I was surprised by that as architecture is normally the first thing that gets dumped

The combined UK architectural workforce of the AJ100 practices at the start of 2019 was 12,024, up 237 on last year’s total. The combined total permanent staff workforce was 27,691, which is significantly up on the previous year’s total of 25,437. However, these figures are distorted by the inclusion of non-architectural staff in large multidisciplinary firms such as Jacobs and Atkins. Foster + Partners is the largest ‘pure’ architecture practice employer, with 1,095 permanent employees. The total permanent UK workforces of 54 practices expanded, led by BDP (up 58) while 33 shrank.

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Half the AJ100 (52) practices increased their UK-based architectural workforces, led by Zaha Hadid Architects and AHMM, which were up 47 and 46 respectively. Thirty-six saw architectural workforces fall, including Broadway Malyan and John Robertson Architects, which shrank by 75 and 40 respectively. Thirteen practices reported opening at least one office in the UK in the past year, just down from 14 the previous year. Only three closed offices in the UK in 2018, compared with seven in 2017. 

While the profession held up well in 2018 in the face of Brexit-led uncertainty, there are signs of a change in the market with Purcell, Hawkins\Brown and Eric Parry Architects among others all making redundancies. Some observers already detect a definite fall in confidence this year.

‘2018 was a good year,’ says Vince Nacey of The Fees Bureau, which analyses the architectural market. ‘The economy and architectural workload showed a lot of resilience, and I was surprised by that as architecture is normally the first thing that gets dumped.’

He is less upbeat about the future, with the profession facing ‘difficult and uncertain times’ after a positive past five years.

‘It’s hard to know what the next six months will bring. But I don’t think anyone’s optimistic,’ he says. ‘We’re at a tipping point, or have just passed it, where confidence has been eroded and projects are being put on hold. It’s just a mess.’  

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He adds that last year’s resilience is now used up. ‘Even if there is some resolution [to Brexit] tomorrow, it would still take time to get going again – there will be a time-lag whatever. And if the outcome isn’t favourable, there could be a recession.’

Gerard Daws, co-founder of design management firm Plan A Consultants, has noticed a sense of change in the market characterised by a gradual erosion of confidence. 

‘Architectural practices are making redundancies and we haven’t seen that for a while,’ he says. ‘This has created a cycle where practices are not being as bullish and adventurous as before, particularly in London and where practices are over-reliant on one sector. Likewise, some of the big infrastructure projects are winding down. Hopefully the government will keep their nerve on HS2.’ He adds that the challenge for architects would be if a no-deal Brexit scenario became a reality.

At the RIBA, executive director professional services Adrian Dobson also detects a definite fall in market confidence this year, although he adds that this varies regionally, with confidence running higher in the North and Midlands. 

‘In terms of workload in progress, we’ve seen a fall of 6 per cent year-on-year in the last two quarters for the first time since 2012,’ he says. ‘Anecdotally, the evidence is that clients aren’t willing to commit to going ahead with projects and to starting on site.’ Nonetheless, he adds, there isn’t the feeling that the market is heading for a full-blown recession.  

‘It’s not like 2008 when the profession went off a cliff in the space of about six weeks; we don’t have that sense now,’ he says. ‘It looks like a gradual cooling off of the market rather than a dramatic flick of a switch. But the cool-off is undeniable.’  The coming year is ‘hard to call’, he says, since all depends on the outcome of Brexit.


Optimism is declining, with fewer AJ100 practices expecting to expand in 2019 

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014 analysis 1 aj100 190620

What is your outlook for 2019?

Levels of confidence among AJ100 practices have declined for the fourth year running. Asked how positive their outlook was for the year ahead in general, almost half of the practices were neutral (45 per cent), with two-fifths being ‘optimistic’, but only two practices were ‘very optimistic’. This is down on last year when just over half were ‘optimistic’, with the rest mainly neutral. Fourteen per cent are now ‘pessimistic’, including one that is ‘very pessimistic’, compared with just six per cent in the previous two years. 

Last year, 89 of the 105 AJ100 practices expected to increase their UK architect headcount in the coming year. This year, however, the comparative figure is down to just over half, with most of the remainder (43) expecting their headcount to remain unchanged. Four practices expected to reduce their workforce of UK architects, and two declined to answer.

Everyone has hired more cautiously and slowly and has tried to get more out of their staff

Even practices which have had good a year in 2018 are feeling cautious. ‘There is much to be positive and optimistic about but there is just that note of caution,’ says HTA Design managing partner Simon Baylis. ‘With an increasingly unstable world politically, there is a time when that starts to affect everyone’s sentiment, and we are now there.’

According to Del Hossain of recruitment company Adrem, practices have been in something of a ‘limbo’ situation as the lack of clarity on Brexit has made it hard to plan. Some are taking the opportunity to rationalise and get ‘fighting fit’. But many have benefited from what he describes as a ‘generally more cautious’ approach since the previous recession.

‘They’ve never over-extended themselves,’ he says. ‘There’s an underlying caution. Everyone has hired more cautiously and slowly and has tried to get more out of their staff.’


Pessimism is increasing due to the anticipated impact of Brexit on both business opportunities and recruitment

The protracted political uncertainty has precipitated a marked negative shift in attitudes among AJ100 practices towards how Brexit will affect the profession, compared with last year.

Recruitment is the big issue. Almost 70 per cent expect a negative impact, including 20 per cent who are ‘very pessimistic’ about their ability to employ EU citizens in the near future. This compares with percentages of nearly 60 per cent and 11 per cent last year. Only 3 per cent are now ‘optimistic’, down from 10 per cent last year. In the longer term, the picture is only slightly more positive, with more than half expecting Brexit to have a negative long-term impact on hiring EU citizens. Only 8 per cent are ‘optimistic’ or ‘very optimistic’ while a third remain neutral. This general gloom towards recruitment is felt both by practices with international activities and those only active in the UK.

Lots have gone back to the EU, and there are not so many coming. That’s terrifying because the design industry employs so many Europeans

Anecdotally, practices are already experiencing recruitment difficulties and noticing a decrease in the number of architects coming from the EU.

‘People are staying within their current businesses and few are coming from Europe to work here,’ says Sheppard Robson partner Alan Shingler. He thinks it is getting harder to recruit, a situation not helped by a reduction in the number of architects coming from Australia to work in the UK.

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‘Lots have gone back, and there are not so many coming,’ says Squire & Partners partner Henry Squire of the number of architects from the EU. ‘That’s a terrifying thing for us, because the design industry employs so many Europeans.’

Recruitment agencies have also noticed this trend. ‘There’s a marked decrease in Europeans applying,’ says Jill Showell, London Office principal at Bespoke Careers. ‘Brexit has really taken its toll on that.’

According to Vince Nacey of construction industry analyst The Fees Bureau, large practices are finding recruitment and retention of staff a major headache. ‘Getting EU staff to come in the first place is difficult,’ he says, ‘and convincing them to stay is difficult. Lots of practices are finding it tough.’ 

Asked about the short-term impact of Brexit on business opportunities for UK architects in international markets, almost half the respondents in the AJ100 survey are now ‘pessimistic’ or ‘very pessimistic’, while last year almost half were neutral. Conversely 13 per cent are ‘optimistic’ or ‘very optimistic’ compared with 10 per cent last year. 

There is also slightly more pessimism on longer-term business opportunities overseas this year, although nearly half (48 per cent) declined to be either optimistic or pessimistic. The pessimists outnumber the optimists, however, with almost a third being ‘pessimistic’ (including 8 per cent ‘very pessimistic’) compared with just under a fifth being ‘optimistic’ (including 5 per cent ‘very optimistic’). 

Practices without international activities are the gloomiest, with 58 per cent ‘pessimistic’ about Brexit’s short-term impact, compared with 40 per cent of those practices with international activities.


While pay is on the up for experienced architects, students are out of luck

After three years of stagnation, salaries for experienced architects are once again on the rise, according to data from this year’s AJ100 companies.

The big winners are associates, who saw median salaries rise by 6.5 per cent to £54,830. Associates out of London fared best of all – their median salaries were up by 7.6 per cent. Salaries for partners/directors were 3.5 per cent higher than last year at £88,000 and architects’ salaries rose by 2.1 per cent to £40,000. Less experienced architectural staff were not so fortunate, with salaries for Part 3 students falling 2.4 per cent to £29,275. Year-out students’ median wages were unchanged at £22,000.

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These findings broadly tally with architectural recruitment company Bespoke Careers’ experience of the market, according to Jill Showell, principal of the London office.

I think people are getting higher salaries because practices want to retain the best people

‘I’d agree that at associate level there is more upward salary movement,’ she says. ‘It’s a good time to be stepping up and proving your worth. For Part 2 and young Part 3s, it remains the same.’ 

Although there is generally still a shortage of candidates – not helped by a decline in architects coming over from EU countries to work in the UK – she has noticed a greater willingness on the part of architects to change jobs since the Brexit extension. ‘We’ve seen a marked increase in candidates applying, and more confidence in changing jobs,’ she says. ‘Before that, confidence in moving jobs was at a low.’

Good architects can now juggle multiple offers, according to Del Hossain of recruitment agency Adrem Group, who has noticed a particular demand for those with experience in repurposing buildings for new uses. ‘I think people are getting higher salaries because practices want to retain the best people,’ he says. 

This year’s survey shows that 29 of the AJ100 practices paid their partners/directors on average in excess of £100,000 – three more than last year. However, only five reported average salaries for partners/directors of over £150,000, compared with seven last year.

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019 analysis 1 aj100 190620

Median salaries

 As usual there is significant disparity between salaries of practices in London and those with no presence in the capital. On average, London-only practices pay their partners/directors 42 per cent more than those without a presence there. The premium for associates, meanwhile, is half this at 21 per cent, while for architects it is just 10 per cent, which may well not compensate for London’s higher living costs. Part 3 and year-out students, meanwhile, are paid about 20 per cent more by the London-only companies.

Among practices without a presence in London, the median salary for partners/directors is down by 1.7 percentage points, while salaries rose for all other staff, with associates up by 7.6 points; architects up by 1.5 points, Part 3 students by 3.3 points and year-out students by 1.7 points.

Despite the upward movement this year, pay in architecture has grown at below the rate of inflation for many years, resulting in a decline in real pay for most employees. However, the AJ100’s survey of employees again finds that most people working at AJ100 practices who participated in the survey remain satisfied (50 per cent) or even very satisfied (29 per cent) with their salaries. Only one in eight is dissatisfied, with the remaining 9 per cent neutral. This distribution is almost identical to that found in last year’s survey.

True take-home pay will be greater in most cases than the salaries reported in the AJ100 survey, since the great majority of practices (84 out of 103) have bonus schemes. 


After a resilient year, both aggregate fee income and fees earned per architect are on the up

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020 analysis 1 aj100 190620

AJ100 fee scale 2018 – 2019

Aggregated architectural fee income to UK offices – for projects being undertaken both in the UK and overseas – was just under £1.3 billion in 2018, a rise of 3.5 per cent on the previous year’s total of £1.25 billion. 

As in previous years, the highest fee earner is Foster + Partners, which alone accounts for 12 per cent of that total. Zaha Hadid Architects is second, accounting for 4.3 per cent. The 19 practices with the highest fee earnings make up half the total income in the AJ100, a level of concentration similar to last year.

Of the 91 practices reporting fees paid to their UK offices both this year and last, 54 reported higher fees – with a median 11 per cent increase. Thirty-five practices had lower fees – with a median 13 per cent reduction – and two reported unchanged fees. The overall median company achieved a 3.5 per cent increase in fees compared with last year. This compares favourably with median growth of 1.3 per cent between 2017 and 2018.

In total, 10 practices achieved fees of at least £250,000 per architect

The latest data shows a strong correlation (0.79) between fees per architect and fees per member of the architectural staff.  The median AJ100 practice reported earning £158,380 per architect in 2018, which is 3 per cent higher than the same practice achieved last year. However, the median figure of £90,000 per member of architectural staff is slightly lower than they achieved last year (£92,460). 

As with last year, Populous tops the list for architectural fees per architect (£566,694), closely followed by HOK (£542,645). These practices also lead in reverse order in terms of fees per member of their architectural staff (£212,510 and £227,324 respectively). In total, 10 practices achieved fees of at least £250,000 per architect, while seven achieved fees of at least £150,000 per member of architectural staff. At the other end of the scale, six practices earned under £100,000 per architect and two under £60,000 per member of their architectural staff.

Overseas work

Fees from overseas work are up sharply with some AJ100 practices looking further afield than ever

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026 032 analysis 3 aj100 190620

Percentage of practices actively seeking work in each region

Total architecture fees revenue from overseas projects paid to UK offices totalled £281.5 million in 2018, a substantial rise of 10 per cent on the previous year. However, the protracted Brexit uncertainty and its potential impact on domestic workloads had yet to make a major impact on the number of practices working abroad. Seventy-five of the AJ100 practices were working abroad in 2018 compared with 77 and 79 for the previous two years respectively. And 67 report that they are proactively seeking work abroad, which is marginally up on the 64 of 2017. 

Over half the practices report they are currently working in the EU, and more specifically in the EU’s western states. Thirty report they are working in the EU’s eastern states, while slightly more are working in the UAE (33) and China and Hong Kong (31). At the other end of the scale, only four practices are working in Iraq, while six are working in South Africa.

Among practices opening overseas offices are Fosters (Sydney), Chapman Taylor (Beijing) and Scott Brownrigg (Amsterdam)

Practices serve these overseas markets from offices both in the host country and in the UK. Overall, 58 practices reported architectural and other fee payments being made to their UK offices for projects based overseas, compared with 63 practices in 2017. Architectural fees paid to UK offices for projects based abroad totalled £281.5 million. Almost half of this was accounted for by Fosters alone, while Fosters and Zaha Hadid Architects together accounted for over two thirds of the total. Meanwhile, 40 practices reported payments to overseas offices for projects based overseas, just one more than last year. The total value of the architectural fees reported was almost £1.85 billion, with Jacobs and Perkins+Will accounting for the majority of this. 

The extent to which the AJ100 practices depend on overseas markets is highly variable. Six practices earn more than 90 per cent of their architectural fee income from overseas projects (led by Zaha Hadid Architects, 99.3 per cent and Jacobs, 98.7 per cent, but also including HOK, Perkins+Will, WATG and IBI Group) and nine more earn at least half their architectural fees from overseas projects (Fosters, NORR, Populous, Aukett Swanke Group, Chapman Taylor, Grimshaw, Farrells, HKS and Broadway Malyan). On the other hand, 39 practices reported no overseas earnings compared with 33 in 2017, while for another 22, overseas projects contributed less than 10 per cent of their total architectural fee income.

Nevertheless, there are signs that more practices are preparing to go far to seek out new markets for their work. RIBA executive director professional services Adrian Dobson says: ‘Anecdotally, we’re hearing that a few more middle-sized London practices are looking internationally again.’

Squire & Partners ventured to Pakistan on a new business mission and ended up with a project in Karachi. Broadway Malyan has enjoyed strong overseas growth and is expanding in the Asia Pacific region in particular, as well as completing its first work in North America. PLP says it is actively targeting work abroad and entering international competitions that it wouldn’t have done before, and with some success – it is now working in India and Moscow and looking to expand in the Far East. Among those practices opening new overseas offices are Fosters (Sydney), Chapman Taylor (Beijing) and Scott Brownrigg (Amsterdam).

According to the AJ100 data, the regions where practices see the most growth opportunities are China and Hong Kong, the eastern states of the EU, Singapore, North America (US and Canada), India, Japan and the EFTA countries (Norway, Switzerland and Iceland).


Female representation is on the up in the profession but BAME numbers have stalled

AJ100 practices continue to lead the way in the employment of female architects, with women accounting for 34 per cent of the architects employed by these firms (2,339 out of 6,972). This is significantly higher than the 27 per cent of women within the total number of registered architects in the UK (9,814 out of 26,240). 

Although this proportion represents an increase of 7 per cent on the AJ100 figure of five years ago, last year’s rise was just 1 per cent. In contrast, however, the proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) architects dipped from 12 per cent to 11 per cent.

This year, four practices report employing more women than men architects in the UK: Darling Associates (63 per cent), TateHindle (59 per cent), Farrells (53 per cent) and Pozzoni Architecture (51 per cent). This compares with two practices the year before. Meanwhile, 26 of the AJ100 practices employ fewer women architects than the ARB average of 27 per cent. These include Hadfield Cawkwell Davidson and Darnton B3, which both employed just three women architects, out of a total of 32 and 30 respectively.

Waiting for the pipeline of younger women architects to progress through to senior levels in practice will take too long

The total of reported BAME architects in the AJ100 was down from 785 to 776. This represents 11 per cent of all architects employed by AJ100 companies, while ethnic minorities constitute about 20 per cent of the UK’s population. Four practices failed to disclose their numbers of BAME architects in the UK, while 11 reported employing no BAME architects. Those with the highest BAME representation in the UK were rg+p (50 per cent) and tp bennett (34 per cent).

While the proportion of female architects employed in the UK by AJ100 companies is slightly lower among mid-sized practices, the proportion of BAME architects in the UK tends to increase with size of the practice.

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RIBA director of practice Lucy Carmichael is hopeful of further progress. ‘We’re not seeing any significant improvements in the data yet,’ she says, ‘but there has definitely been a general cultural shift towards greater integration of diversity and inclusion in practice. Certain external factors such as gender pay gap reporting have sharpened practices’ focus on the need to take proactive action to address these issues, and to have policies in place rather than just meaning well.

‘I’m optimistic, but the profession can’t rest on its laurels. Waiting for the pipeline of younger women architects to progress through to senior levels in practice will take too long. But there are ways of accelerating change such as returner programmes for experienced women who have left the profession; proactively developing talented young women in practice; and putting measures in place to retain them when they start families – including offering flexible working and providing a positive workplace culture.’

Retention of women within the profession remains the big issue, according to Alice Brownfield, co-chair of the recently formed Part W, an action group concerning women in the built environment. She calls for governing bodies to assist in data-capturing to identify where women are dropping out of the profession and to benchmark gender equality best practice. 

In the case of architecture, this may mean exploring revisions to the RIBA Charter. Part W is keen for all genders to engage on this aspect of diversity.  ‘It’s important it’s not seen as just a women’s issue,’ says Brownfield. ‘We need men to be actively involved in this. What’s better for women is better for everyone.’  She adds that this includes promoting fulfilling part-time work. ‘We need to be positive and celebrate good examples of how that can be done,’ she says.

The proportion of women architects tends to be highest in the London-only practices and lowest in practices without a London office. This pattern is even more marked for BAME architects, although there are exceptions in both directions. Overall, there is little correlation between the proportion of women architects and the proportion of BAME architects, indicating that the two do not necessarily go hand in hand.

According to Sonia Watson, chief executive of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, there are still barriers to entering the profession for those with a BAME background. As a result, practices are struggling to attract a diverse pool of candidates. 

‘Saying that if you work hard you can achieve anything plays a bit flat. You can’t play the game if you’re not invited into the game,’ she says.

The trust, which over the past 10 years has supported 132 young people of BAME backgrounds to become architects through funding, mentoring and work opportunities, is addressing this through initiatives such as an upcoming open-to-all recruitment portal, as well as mentor and outreach programmes. It is also working with the RIBA, which will fund a member of staff to connect to opportunities available within its membership and build awareness of careers within the built environment from school age. 

‘Statistically, it’s a challenge but there is hope,’ says Watson. ‘On Stephen Lawrence Day we distributed our marketing to 27,000 schools.’

The RIBA recently updated its Codes of Conduct and Practice to include strengthened requirements to promote equality, diversity and inclusion, and prevent discrimination, harassment and bias.


AJ100 practices are increasingly prioritising being a good place to work as a sign of practice success 

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026 032 analysis 3 aj100 190620

AJ100 practices are showing an increasing concern with their staffs’ happiness. Asked to allocate 100 points across six factors that might be considered to contribute to the success of a practice, they once again ranked client satisfaction and repeat business highest but ‘being a good place to work’ is now in second place, swapping places with ‘creativity’.

Client satisfaction and repeat business took 22.8 per cent of the allocations – marginally higher than last year, with two of the 83 respondents awarding it half the available points. Ten per cent was the lowest allocation to this priority. 

There’s a growing recognition that creativity and profit are a product of best practice

‘Being a good place to work’ was close behind with 21 percentage points, up from 19.3 per cent last year. Three practices allocated half the points to this priority, while another five gave it just 10 per cent.  None gave it less than 10 per cent. 

‘Obviously it’s really encouraging,’ comments RIBA director of practice Lucy Carmichael. ‘There’s a growing recognition that creativity and profit are a product of best practice.’

Creativity now averages just 20 per cent of the available points, with one practice declining to allocate any points to this factor. The ability to win new business remained fourth, with on average 17 per cent of the available points. Profit margin came fifth with an average 12.5 per cent of the points, followed by peer recognition with 6.6 per cent.

Among the top three objectives, practices placing greater emphasis on client satisfaction and repeat business also tend to allocate more points to being a good place to work, and fewer to profit margin, creativity, new business and peer recognition. Those emphasising creativity, meanwhile, place a greater emphasis on new business and peer recognition, with less concern for being a good place to work.

More broadly, the survey also asked respondents to nominate the architect they most admired outside their own practice. After losing out to Allies and Morrison last year, Foster + Partners was again the most nominated, followed by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris and Hawkins\Brown. There’s no change, however, regarding the most popular architectural school, with The Bartlett attracting 26.5 per cent of nominations, widening the gap with the University of Bath, which was once again second on 18 per cent.


Growth in advanced technologies is not at the expense of traditional techniques

Drawing and model-making by hand are not endangered activities, despite a continued rise in the use of cutting-edge technologies among AJ100 practices.

BIM is now universal, with 93 per cent of practices declaring that they made extensive use of it – the highest proportion of any individual technology – compared with 59 per cent five years ago. Three quarters now use 3D point cloud scanning and nearly two thirds use drones, although only 2 per cent do so extensively. Virtual reality (VR) is now used by 85 per cent of practices compared with 75 per cent last year, and augmented reality (AR) by 67 per cent compared with 57 per cent last year. Digital manufacturing techniques are used by 70 per cent. Revit Architecture is now very widely employed, being extensively used by 86 per cent of practices, up from just over half five years ago.

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Yet traditional techniques continue their resurgence. Almost all the practices reported they still used drawing by hand, nearly half extensively, compared with 38 per cent five years ago. Furthermore, 90 per cent of practices still build models by hand, with a third making extensive use of model-building by hand, compared with 26 per cent five years ago.

Clients are beginning to expect or demand the use of VR and AR to convey architectural intention

Nevertheless, newer technologies such as VR, AR and drones are here to stay, according to creative consultant and author Mike Fairbass, a former head of model-making at Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners.

‘Drones are being used appropriately to scan what is built for snagging, and VR and AR are becoming more used … to the point where clients are beginning to expect or demand their use to convey architectural intention,’ he says, commenting that while AR may lead to a reduction in the use of block massing models, presentation models remain a great tool.

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‘Fully 3D-printed architectural models are still less common as they can be soulless, having only a single material,’ he says. ‘However, 3D printed components crafted by skilled makers into multi-material/finish models is now a standard that will endure.’

Grimshaw is one of the AJ100 practices to have embraced AR and VR in the last few years, having recently hired its first AR specialist.  

‘Demand for it in-house has definitely increased,’ says Grimshaw global head of computational design Andy Watts of VR, which is permanently set up for impromptu design reviews as required. The practice, which was shortlisted for this year’s Best Use of Technology award is currently exploring opportunities for machine learning and robotics while employing some 10 staff (including part-time workers) in its model shops worldwide.

‘It comes down to what’s the best tool for the job,’ says Watts. ‘None are meant to replace traditional model-making or hand drawing.’  

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