TZL 1421 (web)

Decembe r 27, 202 1 , I s sue 1 42 1 W W W . Z W E I G G R O U P . C O M


Primary work location

A look back at 2021 – and ahead to 2022 – through the lyrics of Billy Joel. We didn’t start this fire either

Zweig Group asked more than 10,000 employees in its Best Firms To Work For survey where their primary work location was in the first half of 2021. Overall, 48 percent of employees said they worked primarily at the office , 43 percent said they worked primarily at home , and the remaining 9 percent worked primarily in the field . When analyzed by department, the focus on field work for those with construction- related roles is evident relative to other roles. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication.

E verything I know about the second half of the 20th century I learned from Billy Joel and his 1989 hit “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” In the space of four minutes, he chronicled four decades of world events. With apologies to one of my favorite artists, here is a look back on just one year – 2021. Within Billy Joel’s other lyrics we can also find inspiration for 2022. ■ ■ The pandemic. Pfizer and Moderna, variants and mutant strains. Second wave, third wave, booster shots, and mask mandates. A year ago, a COVID tsunami was breaking. Then case numbers plunged throughout the spring and early summer, helped by vaccines and social measures. By June, it felt like we were approaching a “return to normal.” Cue the delta variant. Cases spiked again in August and September. As I write this, omicron is dominating headlines. We’ve been living with a persistent undercurrent of existential dread for almost two years now. AEC firms have done a remarkable job adapting, and business by and large has been very good. These are still not normal times, however, as tempting as it is to think otherwise. “I took the good times; I’ll take the bad times; I’ll take you just the way you are,” from “Just The Way You Are,” 1977 Zweig Group surveys AEC employees for its annual Best Firms To Work For Award. 2020 results represented the high-water mark for positive employee sentiment of their firms’ communications efforts. Our 2021 survey results clearly indicated that employers retreated to old habits. We continue to beat our drum on this topic. Frequent, consistent, insightful communication about the state of affairs may have been “extra necessary” in 2020. It is no less important today than it was a year ago. To the firm leaders reading this: Don’t take your foot off the communication pedal. Keep talking to your company. ■ ■ The industry. Return to office, Zoom fatigue, record backlog, steady fees. Talent shortage, rising costs, infrastructure bill proceeds. AEC firms will record excellent year-end financial results.

Tom Godin

F I R M I N D E X MD Architects ........................................................ 12

Pennoni Associates..............................................4

Svigals + Partners................................................. 6

Ware Malcomb ........................................................4

MO R E A R T I C L E S n JOSEPH SPADEA: Technology as a differentiator Page 3 n Stand for something: Jay Brotman Page 6 n LUCAS HAYDEN: Command of data is the difference Page 9 n MARK ZWEIG: Organization structure tune-up Page 11

See TOM GODIN, page 2



TOM GODIN, from page 1

Projects moved forward in 2021, across the United States and in all sectors. Backlog figures are breaking records. Merger and acquisition activity is brisk. The industry is experiencing full employment. Recruiting and retention of staff remains the top priority and concern of AEC managers. The recent passage of the Infrastructure and Investment Act will push backlog numbers even higher and put more pressure on staff. “You might enjoy some madness for a while,” from “You May Be Right,” 1980 We don’t know how long these good times will roll. Our advice? Keep hustling. Do everything you can to make your firm a best place to work so that you hold on to what you’ve got. Look for innovative ways to make technology work to your benefit. ■ ■ Our society. Social justice, DEI, climate change, and cleaner skies. When we get busy, we stop doing the “important but not urgent” things on our lists. Marketing, training, mentoring, celebrations – these get pushed aside by AEC firms. “I’d love to stay but there’s bills to pay, so I just don’t have the time,” from “The Entertainer,” 1974 Don’t manifest this lyric. Not as it relates to marketing or employee experience. Not as it relates to the two defining movements of our time. There is all the work to be done in our industry as it relates to diversity, equity, and inclusion. DEI needs to be on every management team’s agenda in 2022. ElevateHER is an initiative – started by Zweig Group – to better the future of the AEC industry. It is a commitment to embrace, promote, and ensure equal opportunities for everyone in the AEC industry, regardless of gender, race, age, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. ElevateHER’s website has resources that every firm will find useful. Your energy and effort are necessary. Please engage with this important initiative. Along with DEI, and in fact closely linked with it – our planet and its environment need to be top of mind for our industry too. Worldwide we are hearing intense conversations around net zero. The IIA is full of projects meant to combat climate change. Sustainable design and building techniques are in most firms’ repertoires now and AEC firms need to continue to stay abreast of leading-edge research and engineering developments. At Zweig Group, we intend to make this an area of emphasis in 2022. A year ago, Zweig Group Managing Principal Jamie Claire Kiser urged readers of The Zweig Letter to, “Find your ElevateHER. Respond to your own call to action, whatever it may be, and work on building your own legacy that will leave your profession better than you found it.” I can’t improve on that advice for 2022. The voices aren’t going to pass by. Open the door.

Interested in learning more

about the projects and ideas driving the AEC industry forward? Learn more with Civil+Structural Engineer Media.

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Chad Clinehens | Publisher Sara Parkman | Senior Editor & Designer Shirley Che | Contributing Editor Liisa Andreassen | Correspondent Tel: 800-466-6275 Fax: 800-842-1560 Email: Online: Twitter: Facebook: Group-1030428053722402 Published continuously since 1992 by Zweig Group, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA. ISSN 1068-1310. Issued weekly (48 issues/year). Free electronic subscription at © Copyright 2021, Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

Tom Godin is a strategic planning advisor at Zweig Group. Contact him at tgodin@ .

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Technology as a differentiator

T echnology has always played a critical role in howwe deliver services to our clients. Most recently, it has drastically changed the way we work and provide services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. But overall, it has impacted the critical decisions we make to best serve our clients and staff. Invest in these technologies so you can continue bringing the best solutions to your clients and remain competitive in the changing market.

Joseph Spadea

Since our founding more than 55 years ago, developing and implementing technology has served as a catalyst for that change. From industry leading technologies and services to our processes and beyond, Pennoni is constantly innovating to accomplish more. This principle is fundamental to our culture and allows us to be proactive to the ever- changing needs of our clients and the communities we serve. A shining example of this commitment to technology is Pennoni FX Studios, our in-house design visualization team. Through cinematic animation and visualizations, this team of engineers, surveyors, designers, and special FX artists brings projects and designs to life. Founded in 2015, the goal has been simple: Produce visualizations, based on engineered data, to convey ideas clearly and effectively – not only to the public, but also to our clients and design team partners.

PFX produces high quality 3D renderings and animations to help illustrate what proposed new projects will look like in context with the surrounding community and built environment. PFX visualization efforts often integrate 3D topographical survey, HD Laser Scan point clouds, and other available 3D design assets such as Revit or Sketchup files for a streamlined visualization workflow for both accurate and realistic animations. Pennoni provides high end 3D animations, infographics, and presentation materials for use in the public involvement process. PFX recently completed one of its largest projects since its inception – a five-square-mile digital twin of Newport News, Virginia. Working closely with the city of Newport News, the PFX team developed a multi-faceted visualization approach for the downtown area to express new revitalization efforts.




BUSINESS NEWS WARE MALCOMB ANNOUNCES COMPLETION OF TOYOTA FINANCIAL SERVICES EXPERIENCE CENTER WEST Ware Malcomb, an award-winning international design firm, announced the completion of the Toyota Financial Services Experience Center West, located in Allred Park Place at 1650 S. Price Road in Chandler, Arizona. Ware Malcomb provided workplace strategy, interior architecture and branding services for this project. Ware Malcomb partnered with TFS to provide design services for the consolidation of 29 locations into three regional experience centers – West, Central, and East. The firm also provided design services for the East experience center located in Alpharetta, Georgia. For these locations, the aesthetics needed to reflect the natural professionalism of Toyota’s brand yet align with a regional design expression. Toyota Financial Services West is a 56,219 square foot workplace organized into neighborhoods with a variety of

spaces to support employees’ unique work styles and changing needs. Focus zones, formal meeting environments and informal collaboration spaces provide flexible and dynamic options for various work types. The office contains individual seating for 300 employees and features exposed ceilings to facilitate an open, bright and functional space. The design incorporates sound mitigation strategies including acoustical wall treatments and sound reducing 3form Clario Clouds. Ware Malcomb utilized nature-inspired materials such as stone, wood and greenery for a coastal aesthetic, creating a biophilic connection between people and nature. TFS has spent decades curating lasting relationships with customers and dealers while striving for quality, convenience and consistency. To better serve customers and dealers alike, they have consolidated their United States dealer service operations to increase efficiency and elevate customer and employee experience.

“We are honored to partner with Toyota Financial Services as they strategically consolidate their United States footprint,” said Mary Cheval, principal at Ware Malcomb. “The company’s commitment to sustainability and customer service excellence is woven into their DNA and is especially visible in the new experience centers.” The Experience Center West project achieved LEED v4 ID+C: CI, Gold Level certification. Ware Malcomb worked in collaboration with Verde, the sustainability consultant, to execute strategic goals focused on minimizing waste and energy while maximizing efficiency and enhancing the health and well-being of employees and guests. Ware Malcomb’s in-house branding team designed a branded environment, signage, and custom graphics for a curated tour path within the office for visitors and employees to experience a unique journey through the company’s sustainability history and mission.

laser scanner data, 360° photography, smart asset information, and GIS integration to develop the five-square-miles of interactive mapping and photosphere renderings. Users can navigate and experience each of the 13 unique project locations using the custom-made Pennoni software. In addition to the fully functional 3D model, Pennoni developed a two-minute animation featuring the exterior of the project as well as an outreach video. The video used for project promotion included motion graphics, a voiceover, and more to depict the before and after effects of the ongoing revitalization in Newport News. Through PFX, Photo360⁰, and other evolving technologies, Pennoni uses these creations as a differentiator. Clients have options when choosing a firm to work with and positioning ourselves with expertise in both engineering and animation sets us apart and allows for the growth of our client base. The traditional services that firms like Pennoni offer will always be needed. The delivery of these services has changed in that software and technological advancements have given us better ways to arrive at our solutions for our clients. As our clients, both public and private, expand their use of more smart technologies in efficient and effective ways, it is important for firms like ours to embrace the changing technologies. We need to innovate and invest in these initiatives to continue bringing the best solutions to our clients and remain competitive in the changing market. Joseph Spadea is associate vice president at Pennoni Associates. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

JOSEPH SPADEA, from page 3

Pennoni created 3D models for the existing conditions, as well as integration and creation of more than a dozen new or proposed development models. Several conceptual models, such as the seafood market, were created in real time by the PFX team with input from city personnel. The project consisted of 13 projects. Five projects were built entirely from scratch, including a kayak launch model and health and wellness center. “The traditional services that firms like Pennoni offer will always be needed. The delivery of these services has changed in that software and techno - logical advancements have given us better ways to arrive at our solutions for our clients.” Pennoni created a virtual meeting space, virtual 3D tour of the project sites scattered throughout the Newport News area, and an enhanced GIS story map complete with 360-degree renderings of the projects. This visualization approach helped to capture more than a decade of planning, projects, and innovations led by the city in one interactive ecosystem. PFX studios worked in synergy with the city’s GIS team in a single large collaboration. Pennoni utilized Photo360⁰, a multi-purpose tool for viewing

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.


2022 Learning Opportunities

Learning is your competitive advantage. Zweig Group is your life-long learning provider of choice.

IN-PERSON SEMINARS FEB 17-18 Leadership Skills for AEC Professionals New Orleans, LA MAR 10-11 Project Management & Advanced PM for AEC Professionals Tampa, FL


Project Management 11am - 12:30pm CT

FEB 22, 24 + MAR 1, 3, 8, 10

The Principals Academy 11am - 1pm CT

MAR 30-31 Elevating Doer-Sellers Scottsdale, AZ

JUN 7, 14, 21, 28

Elevating Doer-Sellers 11am - 1pm CT

APR 7-8

ElevateHER Kickoff Dallas, TX

JUL 12, 19, 26 + AUG 2

Leadership Skills for AEC Professionals 11am - 12:30pm CT

APR 21-22 CEO Roundtable Napa Valley, CA

APR 28-29 M&A Next


Charleston, SC

Survey Report Webinar Dates & Time TBD

MAY 19-20 CFO Roundtable TBD

Register TODAY!

JUN 9-10 The Principals Academy Miami, FL

Have questions? Want more information? Interested in a discounted group rate? Interested in In-House Training?

SEP 14-16 ElevateAEC Conference & ElevateHER Symposium Las Vegas, NV


*All events subject to change

Zweig Group is an approved provider by the AIA



Stand for something: Jay Brotman Managing partner of Svigals + Partners (New Haven, CT), an architecture and art firm that helps communities thrive by creating environments that build upon who they are.


H is fascination for design started at an early age. While growing up in Dallas, Brotman spent a good deal of time dreaming up ways to build complex structures from model kits. Who knew this passion would turn into a lifelong career? Today, he dedicates his energy to finding the right balance of strategic and creative endeavors, cultivating client relationships and mentoring a highly productive team. “We’re creating a culture that stands for something,” Brotman says. “We pursue projects we excel at and that we want to work on. Our decisions are not based on the bottom line. Of course, we need to stay healthy in that regard, but real sustainability comes from bringing meaning and relevance to everything you do.” A CONVERSATIONWITH JAY BROTMAN. The Zweig Letter: In 2018, you testified before Congress about school design and safety and detailed best practices – specifically in the redesign of Sandy Hook Elementary. What

affect did that testimony have on current and future school design? Have you worked on additional school safety designs after that? Please explain. Jay Brotman: For background, the overall message to Congress and to communities following the Sandy Hook tragedy was that communities need to understand that increasing security is not all about hardening. We do not advocate turning schools into fortresses. Schools are much more effective when they are open and transparent – more supportive of learning, health, and safety. We need to shift away from the language of hardening to the concept of layering. The architectural community is here to help with that. Specifically, going into the Congressional hearings, the AIA had three goals: 1. Create a national clearinghouse/database where schools can find the latest information on school security and how to improve school safety.



2. Establish legislative funding for the clearinghouse so it would be maintained and sustainable. 3. Expand the allowable usage of funds

on the street” principle. Instead of having solid walls everywhere, you use glass. You open things up. Transparency, high visibility, good lighting, daylight – all these elements increase a sense of well-being and community. When you see others, you feel a part of a whole. Creating schools that inspire connection, that are more community-based, and support the prevention of mistreatment and bullying are the focus of soft programs working toward those goals. “We don’t have to ‘try’ to earn clients’ trust; they give it to us and we give it to them, because we are all on the same side of the table.” TZL: Trust is essential. How do you earn the trust of your clients? JB: Collaboration. We believe everyone can be creative, including our clients. We bring them into the conversation from the beginning, and once we are all together, everything is in the open. From the beginning, the client understands what you are talking about, creating solutions they are a part of. We hear it all the time: “I could see our input in the completed space.” In our industry, that’s not as common as you might think, so it’s a real complement. So, honestly, we don’t have to “try” to earn clients’ trust; they give it to us and we give it to them, because we are all on the same side of the table. TZL: Diversity and inclusion are lacking. What steps are you taking to address the issue? JB: When I started out 30 years ago, the only woman in this firm was the receptionist. Throughout my career, I’ve pressed to increase diversity. Now, half of our licensed architects are women, and we’ve had many architects from diverse backgrounds over the years. We still need to do more to diversify our staff at all levels if we’re to bring true creativity and innovation to our clients. To meet this end, firms must look internally at office policies and hiring practices, as well as ways to support equity in the career pipeline. In the last year, we’ve initiated the development of an internal DEI committee that’s helping us identify ways to foster an environment of inclusion, increase intercultural competence, and ensure equitable access to benefits and career


for the STOP School Violence Grant Program to include overall security master plans.

Haven, CT

As a result of the first goal, the national clearinghouse/database was established. Now anyone can visit and find information on bullying, threat assessment, training and drills, mental health, and more. The effort had bipartisan backing and required support from the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, Education, and Homeland Security – so getting it up and running was a huge accomplishment. On goal number two, the website has not been fully codified or funded by Congress, leaving further development and its maintenance and sustainability in question. It has been written into a bill, but like many Congressional efforts, bipartisan and otherwise, it has stalled. Goal number three is still in progress. AIA has been pushing for $100 billion to fund school retrofits including security, deferred maintenance, and energy improvements. Only energy improvements have been included in the current proposed legislation, but even that is still considered at-risk. As far as security goes, there is no “one-size- fits-all” solution. The legislations still do not include funding for appropriate planning and this is an issue in our minds. We know that school districts don’t have adequate funding to implement the improvements we feel are needed in year one, so appropriate planning must be instituted, so projects are ready to go when the funds do arrive. “We believe everyone can be creative, including our clients. We bring them into the conversation from the beginning, and once we are all together, everything is in the open.” To answer your second question, yes, we’ve worked on schools since 2018 and Sandy Hook. We look at all our projects through a filter of security, including higher education, residential, and workplace. It’s about applying appropriate CPTED principles like the “eyes




■ ■ New Haven, CT

■ ■ Fort Lauderdale, FL

■ ■ Arlington, VA


■ ■ Master planning

■ ■ Education

■ ■ Healthcare

■ ■ Mixed-use/residential

■ ■ Science and technology

■ ■ Workplace

■ ■ Civic-cultural

MISSION: To inspire our

clients to join us in creating


productive playgrounds.

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

EMBER 27, 2021, ISSUE 1421


him out rather effortlessly, because we prepared early – 10 years early. One pitfall to avoid is having the retiring partner own too much of the firm, because then a buy-out can be difficult. The earlier you start, the more affordable the buy-out becomes which broadens the field of candidates for partnership. Ideally, advance planning creates opportunity for multiple partners to be brought in which has the added advantage of broadening your network, creating more work, and introducing diversity into the leadership. Another pitfall is relying on one personality to attract clients. Our founder was very charismatic, and clients were loyal to him. Those of us who took over needed to work hard preparing and modeling partnership, so that by the time he retired, clients knew us and there was no loss of client base. TZL: Your company’s mission is to inspire clients to create productive playgrounds. Can you give me a recent example of where this happened? What was the project and the outcome? JB: We just completed a full office and laboratory space for Halda Therapeutics. The biotech industry is really emerging in New Haven. We’ve been nurturing it for nearly 30 years, and now it’s blossoming. Highly innovative, collaborative companies are demanding true lab space outfitted to meet their production, safety, and health needs. One of our specialties is making laboratories innovative environments that are not just rows of benches and hoods. To flourish, labs need offices, meeting rooms, and breakrooms. We use glass walls, doors, and dividers, because there’s a relationship between work being done inside the labs and in other parts of the workplace. Labs used to be in basements. Now they are on elevated floors with views. We make them so much more collaborative and comfortable than they were years ago, that research teams are happy and highly productive around the clock. We use branding, color, biophilia, natural light and materials, and encourage our clients to incorporate art for its life-affirming qualities. Even technical environments can be full of personality and vibrancy without being distracting; that’s the experience we bring. TZL: A firm’s longevity is valuable. What are you doing to encourage your staff to stick around? JB: We’re coming up on our 39th year, and I think organizationally we are stronger now than ever. We’re creating a culture that stands for something. We pursue projects we excel at and that we want to work on. Our decisions are not based on the bottom-line. Of course, we need to stay healthy in that regard, but real sustainability comes from bringing meaning and relevance to everything you do. We are currently reevaluating our mission and vision as an entire firm to make sure moving forward it reflects who we want to be and howwe want to change the world. Everyone is part of that process – that’s a given. While we are at it, we’re having fun. We have staff that’s been here for more than 30 years, and new people who look forward to being here long into the future. Conversely, if someone pursues another opportunity, that’s excellent too. Everyone needs to find their own path.


advancement opportunities. Located in central Connecticut, we knowwe need to increase our outreach to attract a broad range of talent. Over the next year, we plan to identify and connect with more schools that attract historically- marginalized students. We’ve also been longtime supporters of the New Haven ACE Mentorship program, a non-profit which guides students into pursuing careers in the AEC industry. Currently, we have two staff members serving as mentors in the program and one staff member on the board. Our firm has also contributed to the growth of Connecticut’s new chapter of NOMA (National Organization of Minority Architects), which was co-founded by one of our associate architects, and where two of our staff members sit on the executive board. TZL: What type of leader do you consider yourself to be? JB: The underpinning of our mission has always been, “We are better together.” This means we work collaboratively using primarily a flat organizational structure. In this way, no one person carries all the weight, and each individual is constantly learning, sharing, and teaching. To make it work, every person must be treated with respect and their individual skills and ambitions nurtured. My role is to create a culture where this process is encouraged and flourishes, while also inspiring and guiding as needed. If we hire good and dedicated people, create a collaborative environment, then allow each person to do what they do best – the result is powerful. Micromanaging is the death of an organization, whereas empowering people to learn, grow, and lead paves the way for innovation, creativity, and strength. “Micromanaging is the death of an organization, whereas empowering people to learn, grow, and lead paves the way for innovation, creativity, and strength.” TZL: What benefits does your firm offer that your people get most excited about? JB: Culture. Creativity. Collaboration. Work-life balance. The encouragement to discover themselves, their strengths, and their interests. We have staff members who lead public art projects, have co-founded regional AEC diversity efforts and who stay immersed in sustainability issues while initiating in- house composting efforts. We encourage each individual to figure out how they want to make the world a better place, and give them whatever freedom we can to incorporate those passions into their work. This is on top of equitable pay, fully- funded healthcare and job stability because without those things, the rest doesn’t amount to much. TZL: Ownership transition can be tricky, to say the least. What’s the key to ensuring a smooth passing of the baton? What’s the biggest pitfall to avoid? JB: In our firm, transition has been a natural process. We’ve only had one prior leader – our founding partner who was able to retire at a decent age. The current partners were able to buy

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Unanet’s inaugural AEC benchmarking study reveals the data-management practices that separate the best firms from the rest. Command of data is the difference

A EC firms are constantly collecting information. And as we found in Unanet’s first AEC Inspire benchmarking report, it’s how they use that data once it’s collected that can make all the difference.

As a co-author of the 2021 AEC Inspire report, which is based on a survey of leaders and executives from more than 175 AEC firms, one of my biggest takeaways from the results we gathered is the growing but still uncertain relationship many firms have with data, and because of that, the real competitive advantage a firm stands to gain simply by doing a better job of managing and deriving insight from their data. As we learned from our analysis, many firms struggle to leverage their data to make better-informed decisions, measure and track key performance indicators, and make more accurate forecasts related to pipeline, revenue, project schedules, and resources. In an intensely competitive business like AEC, excelling in these critical areas can be a true difference-maker. High-performing, data- driven firms (those that report using data regularly) expect to outperform their counterparts by three times in terms of expected revenue growth in 2021, and by more than two times in terms of expected profit.

Lucas Hayden

Winning new business, improving operational efficiencies, executing profitable projects on time and on budget – all these growth factors come down to howwell a firm manages and leverages the data it collects. But as valuable a resource as data can be,

See LUCAS HAYDEN , page 10



determine why data accessibility and accuracy, along with forecasting, are a struggle for a sizable portion of firms. We discovered that the culprit, in many cases, are the business applications and tools AEC firms use, along with how those tools are leveraged. For example, we learned that most firms continue to depend on a patchwork of business intelligence tools and spreadsheets, with more than one-third using spreadsheets alone to measure and report on KPIs. Two- thirds of organizations said their applications are only partially integrated, while one in 10 indicated there’s little-to-no integration between their business apps. That was a big eye- opener, as was the share of firms that reported using a single, common business intelligence platform: a disturbingly low 6 percent.

LUCAS HAYDEN , from page 9

our benchmarking report shows that it also is underutilized. For example: ■ ■ In terms of data usage, more than half of AEC execs (54 percent) say they use data on a regular, daily basis; one in three sometimes use data, depending on the situation. As more firm decision-makers realize how critical data is to making the right calls in terms of forecasting, planning, resource-maximization, and which newwork to pursue, we expect these data-usage figures will increase substantially. Certainly this is an indicator worth watching in subsequent AEC Inspire reports.

In light of how few firms currently operate within a fully integrated ecosystem with centralized data and analytics, we weren’t surprised to learn that many execs feel their firms are under-equipped to perform certain functions and processes that are key to long-term growth and competitiveness. For example: ■ ■ Nearly half of AEC firms indicated that not having sufficient tools to access, integrate, and analyze data (45 percent) is a significant challenge for them. ■ ■ More than one-third (35 percent) said not having sufficient tools to communicate performance metrics is a hindrance. There are, of course, different ways to view these findings. I prefer the glass-half-full perspective, which suggests that firms with a strong grip on their data, and the ability to analyze that data for insight, put themselves in a great position to operate more efficiently, deliver better project outcomes and win more new business. By cross-referencing revenue and profitability with company use of data, we uncovered a clear connection between a firm’s performance and its use of data on a regular, daily basis to operate their business. Those that do so significantly outperform those that do not. Put in those terms, becoming better at managing and leveraging data seems paramount for firms that are seeking to sustain growth through 2022 and beyond. If our 2021 AEC report “inspires” more architecture, engineering and construction firms to achieve better results through their data, our benchmarking work on the industry’s behalf will have been worthwhile. Click here to download a free digital copy of the 2021 AEC Inspire Report . Lucas Hayden is director of AEC strategy for Unanet, a leading provider of project-based ERP and CRM solutions purpose- built for Government Contractors, architecture, engineering, construction, and professional services. Email him at lucas.

■ ■ Regarding data accessibility, more than one-third (35 percent) of respondents told us that a lack of data availability hinders their ability to use it. Evidently silos and the lack of ready access to data from across the business and from individual projects continue to hamper timely, well-informed decision-making. ■ ■ In the area of missing or inaccurate data, close to half (47 percent) of respondents indicated that missing or inaccurate data is a challenge. An ongoing reliance on manual, spreadsheet- and paper-focused processes, and a lack of integration between software and systems, can handicap firm leaders and project managers in their efforts to gain the accurate, complete insight they need to effectively steer projects and the firm as a whole. ■ ■ On the forecasting front, more than half of the executives we surveyed pointed to forecasting as their most significant financial (58 percent) and project-related (57 percent) challenge. Better forecasting in areas like budgeting, resource allocation, and scheduling tends to translate into better project outcomes, enhanced project-specific and firm-wide efficiencies, and in terms of growth opportunities, a greater ability to gauge resources, prioritize pursuits accordingly, and land the types of projects the firm covets. As part of the AEC Inspire report, we dug a little deeper to

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Organization structure tune-up

There are some things you can do to “tune up” your organization structure, even if you don’t completely overhaul it.

D esign firms are complex organisms. They rise and fall based on the collective morale of the people who work in them. Organization structure has a big impact on that morale. Yet, my experience with many architects and engineers who are also firm owners is that the moment the topic of organization structure comes up, they are immediately turned off. So many think it is just some amorphous thing that really doesn’t matter and they have little interest in it.

Mark Zweig

But the fact is that it IS important. And there are some things you can do to “tune up” your organization structure, even if you don’t completely overhaul it. Here are some of those things that you should take a look at: 1. Unity of command. Does each person have one direct supervisor and only one? This is a common problem in AEC firms because they are project-driven firms and there is often some sort of matrix or quasi-matrix organization structure. People don’t knowwho their boss is. Is it the department head of the department they work in? Is it the PM whose job they are working on? There must be absolute clarity about who can direct someone so that person can establish the priorities and the person is not pulled in different

directions. I have also witnessed this same phenomenon in firms with two partners who are very close, or a husband and wife who both work there. It confuses the employees and leads to dissatisfaction and problems. 2. Confusion over who is responsible for what. This is another frequent area that needs some help in AEC firms. Who is responsible for collection of AR? Is it the PM? Is it the principal in charge of that client? Is it the finance and accounting people? Is it someone else? This also applies to marketing and selling. Who is ultimately responsible for that? The BD people? The PM? The principal? This confusion results in certain

See MARK ZWEIG , page 12



BUSINESS NEWS MD ARCHITECTS AWARDED GRAND PRIZE IN 2021 DVM360 VETERINARY HOSPITAL DESIGN COMPETITION A state-of-the-art more than 25,000 square-foot veterinary hospital designed by Indianapolis-based MD Architects was recently awarded the prestigious Grand Prize in the 2021 dvm360® Hospital Design Competition. dvm360’s Hospital Design Competition honors the most attractive, efficient, and customer-friendly veterinary hospitals in the country. A panel of veterinary hospital design experts evaluated the strengths and standout features of each submission to ultimately crown a Hospital of the Year winner in two size categories, as well as several Merit Awards. VCAWestCoastSpecialtyandEmergency Animal Hospital in Fountain Valley, CA, was named Hospital of the Year in the “Over 8,000 square feet” category for its thoughtful, well-organized floor plan, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly design, dedicated spaces for high-tech equipment, and attention to both animal and human needs. MD Architects’ team of architects and interior designers, led by Owner and

Founder Rick Renschen, AIA, NCARB, were hired by VCA to design a larger space than the 13,000 square-foot, two- building facility they had outgrown. “Our design work began with an analysis of the existing hospital, which was spread between several buildings,” Renschen said. “All departments had to be relocated into a single building. We redesigned their workflows into clear circulation modes, creating a more consistent, effective model. Because veterinary hospitals tend to evolve into elongated networks of structures, folding circulation paths to fit into a big box store was a challenge.” MD Architects’ winning design – housed in a former Staples store – transformed the physical space through innovative interior renovation and a new exterior addition, and enhanced the experience of the veterinarians and staff who work there, not to mention the pets who receive care. The hospital is now home to 16 exam rooms, air purifying systems that deliver 95-100% air purity in surgical suites, andadedicatedarea fordiagnostic imaging equipment, including X-ray, MRI, CT scan, and linear accelerator for radiation oncology treatment.

“Many pets are especially sensitive to the hospital surroundings, and few are comfortable outside their homes,” Renschen continued. “A growing base of research has been developed into ‘animal-friendly’ veterinary protocols, whichwe,asarchitects,haveincorporated into workable environmental design elements in the hospital, without conflicting with human needs of the space. That includes incorporating calming décor, an abundance of natural light, and separate spaces for dogs and cats to reduce their stress during visits.” Renschen knows a thing or two about the unique needs of veterinary facilities. He founded MD Architects in 2000, and the firm has since designed more than 180 animal care projects across the country, as well as human health environments and retail space. MD Architects offers a wide variety of services in the design and planning for many types of facilities. They are committed to assisting clients in each step of the design and construction process, from conceptual designs to the final inspection.

will act as if the marketing people can all be directed by anyone outside of marketing. That is a big problem and frequently leads to relationship problems between the marketing department and everyone else, and morale problems for the marketing people. The same situation exists for all managers of these “support” units. While each of them should have a single boss, many times anyone who is an owner of the firm thinks they work for them. 5. Owner or principal reporting relationships. I have worked with a number of AEC firms where the individual owners didn’t understand that they reported to someone else – some ONE other person – and the company is not just a lawless federation where any owner can do what they want or cross over any organizational lines to direct people as they choose to. Principals, too, have functional roles and each of them needs someone to report to. That “someone” is not a group or some amorphous collection of more senior owners or principals. I could undoubtedly go on here with more on this subject but hopefully I have stimulated your thinking such that you will be on the lookout for any of these issues in your firms and address them before they become more serious problems than they already are. Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at .

MARK ZWEIG , from page 11

steps not being followed and problems – morale and otherwise – as a result. 3. No real BOD-CEO reporting relationship. In too many AEC firms with multiple partners there is confusion here. Beyond the decision of who gets to be CEO and how that is made (a common issue), there is also the issue of who the CEO is accountable to. Is he or she accountable to the other owners? Or the BOD? It should be the BOD. The BOD is accountable to the shareholders – they elect the BOD. This whole thing needs to be very clear. I can’t tell you how often I have encountered this problem. 4. Support staff reporting relationships. While I hate to think of marketing people, for example, as support staff, the fact is that they are not part of the line (revenue- generating) functions, so we will consider them support for the purpose of this treatise. But who do they report to? The head of marketing, one would presume. Yet in some companies in this business, anyone who is a manager before they become more serious problems than they already are.” “Be on the lookout for any of these is- sues in your firms and address them

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