TZL 1345 (web)

T R E N D L I N E S Value per net service revenue M a y 1 8 , 2 0 2 0 , I s s u e 1 3 4 5 W W W . T H E Z W E I G L E T T E R . C O M

Though the immediate impact of COVID-19 is bleak, there is reason to see the foundation forming for a different type of AEC firm. Opportunity in crisis

In Zweig Group’s 2020 Valuation Report of AEC Firms , valuation ratios were analyzed by firm staff size over the last three years. In relation to value per net service revenue, we see that firms see a general increase in value with growing staff size. The median value for firms with less than 25 employees was 0.54, meaning that they were valued at around 54 percent of their annual NSR.

T he true worth of any profession or business – including the AEC industry – is revealed in a crisis. We have seen the AEC industry make itself suddenly more relevant to societal and environmental issues, and there’s opportunity in this circumstance. For an industry that has acknowledged reluctance to change and suffered from analysis paralysis, I think it’s worth calling out as an advisor to this space that this is no longer consistent with my experience. Leaders in the AEC industry have responded brilliantly; it is incredible to see how the firms that we talk to are not just open to change but are functioning as strategic change agents and making decisions without the benefit of research and information to rely upon. Firm leaders have been thrown into turmoil and have resoundingly risen to the occasion. With this acknowledgment is coupled a plea to stop exhibiting the behaviors that have led to the stereotype of the AEC industry as one that is resolutely behind the times. The business case has been made that your employees are resilient, dynamic, and able to work differently than we believed they could. It will soon be time to make decisions about what this means for your organization, rather than a circumstance we have had to adapt to, and a chance to reassess our comfort level working on teams with asynchronous schedules and delivering projects in a flexible environment. Not only in terms of workplace practices, but also the role of A/E professionals is so very relevant at this very moment. The national spotlight is shining on thought leaders in architecture, urban planning, environmental consulting, and engineering. That “seat at the table” that we have sought out collectively is in front of us, in interviews from Forbes to talking heads in the news on subjects from public health to development to education. For many, it may feel like the first time the AEC industry has been considered “essential.” Though the immediate impact in many AEC firms is bleak in market sectors and geographies that have been hit the hardest by COVID-19, and the daily news of layoffs is not encouraging, there is reason to see the foundation forming for a different type of AEC firm. To follow the money: the massive spike in M&A interest in AEC from private equity recently is evidence that we have far too long undervalued our time, expertise, and services, and therefore our companies, too. This is the time to reframe the value proposition for the design industry. If we intend to bounce back and recover “stronger

Jamie Claire Kiser

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F I R M I N D E X Arup......................................................12



KS Associates, Inc..................................2

OZ Architecture.....................................10

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

MO R E A R T I C L E S xz WILL SWEARINGEN: Kicking the can down the road Page 3 xz Investing in the future: John Meyer Page 6 xz MARK ZWEIG: What’s so great

about the A/E business? Page 9 xz DAN PISELLI: Architects as advocates Page 11




ON THE MOVE KS ASSOCIATES WELCOMES CHRISTOPHER M. DAY, P.E., TO OUR COASTAL ENGINEERING GROUP KS Associates, Inc. is pleased to announce that Christopher M. Day, P.E., has joined the firm as a project manager in the firm’s coastal engineering group. The coastal engineering group provides engineering solutions for all types of waterfront and water-related infrastructure, helping clients plan, design, and manage the construction of projects along the Great Lakes and inland waterways. Day is a professional engineer with more than 20 years of experience in the specialized discipline of coastal engineering. Before moving back to his home state of Ohio, Day had been designing and managing major port and shore protection projects along the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and Gulf of Mexico. Day’s understanding of how to design and plan projects that adapt to the conditions of both open-coast and sheltered waters brings a high degree of value and a unique technical perspective to projects for KS coastal clients. Day is an expert in performing beach erosion studies; designing shore protection projects; planning marine infrastructure for commercial and recreational uses, including ports, harbors, and marinas; flooding analyses and flood insurance rate mapping; morphodynamic modeling; river scour analysis; and wave modeling. Prior to joining KS Associates, Day had a key role in an unprecedented project in Seattle, Washington, aimed at moving light-rail trains over Lake Washington on a floating bridge. For this project, Day co-led the team that developed an innovative warning system to restrict or stop rail operations on the bridge under severe wind and wave conditions. For the Port of San Francisco – where every step of the arrival and departure of cruise ships is scheduled down to the minute – Day identified ways to improve cruise ship mooring operations

and pier infrastructure to reduce potential operational downtime. Day has also led numerous waterfront infrastructure improvements at parks throughout the state of Washington, and has successfully appealed Flood Insurance Rate Maps for homeowners with coastal properties. “Christopher joins KS Associates at a time when our coastal clients need us most. Lake Erie’s record-high water levels and tightening regulatory control over shoreline projects have driven up the demand for expert advice about projects along the southern shore of Lake Erie,” said Lynn S. Miggins, P.E., president of KS Associates. “Christopher’s background in marine physics, his skill at managing complex projects, and his ability to address stakeholder concerns will be an asset to our coastal clients. Christopher is also a native Ohioan and looks forward to ‘diving’ into projects that will have a direct benefit to our local communities.” Day has a master’s degree in applied marine physics and a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, both from the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida. He is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and is a Diplomate in ASCE’s Academy of Coastal, Ocean, Port, & Navigation Engineers (ACOPNE), an elite group of Professional Engineers who have specialized knowledge and experience in marine engineering. He is also member of the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA). KS Associates is multi-disciplined engineering and surveying firm that provides planning, design, bidding, and construction phase services related to public infrastructure projects. We specialize in the areas of transportation, potable water, waste water and storm water; coastal engineering services; site development services for institutional, commercial and residential uses; surveying and mapping services; 3D laser scanning services; and Reality Capture services.

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Solid financial management is crucial to the success of any company, and firms in the AEC industry are no exception. This short course provides an overview of business financial management – specifically tailored to our industry – to help firm leaders make informed decisions that drive results.


1200 North College Ave. Fayetteville, AR 72703 Chad Clinehens | Publisher Sara Parkman | Senior Editor & Designer Christina Zweig | Contributing Editor Liisa Andreassen | Correspondent


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than ever,” that has got to include a shift in how we see our own contributions to our projects and how we price our services and see ourselves as professionals leading the charge instead of being beaten down on pricing and burned out by unrealistically demanding schedules. Less humility, more reminders to the market, to stakeholders, clients, and the public that this industry, in many respects, serves as both the front line and the last line of defense in fighting an outbreak. JAMIE CLAIRE KISER is managing principal and director of advisory services at Zweig Group. Contact her at

Email: Online: Twitter: Facebook: Published continuously since 1992 by Zweig Group, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA. ISSN 1068-1310. Issued weekly (48 issues/year) $250 for one-year print subscription; free electronic subscription at © Copyright 2020, Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

THE PRINCIPALS ACADEMY | VIRTUAL SEMINAR Join Jamie Claire and the rest of Zweig Group’s advisory team for the first virtual The Principals Academy seminar. This is a live, six-week program encompassing all aspects of managing an AEC firm. Click here to learn more!

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When considering a deferred compensation strategy for your ownership transition, keep these pros and cons in mind. Kicking the can down the road

T here are really four components to a successful internal ownership transition: the financial arrangements, the succession of leadership, the corporate governance or organizational structure, and the cultural continuity of the firm. Transition plans and the impact they have on the entire operational structure of the firm are oftentimes not fully understood. The initial focus is immediately on the financial implications. What is the value, how is the transaction structured, and how can I minimize taxes? Most transitions begin here.

Will Swearingen

What is not understood early enough in the planning is how the transition will happen with the next group of owners and what the implications are for the rest of the staff at the firm. And quite frankly this is not the top priority of the exiting shareholder in many cases. They are looking for a way to get out of their equity and management position and eventually retire. Though there are many different ways to execute a transition and the transactions associated with a changing of the guard, there are really three distinct paths for an internal transition. In a complete oversimplification of the options, here they are: you can buy and sell ownership as

true transfers of equity, you can use a deferred compensation structure, or you can use an ESOP. Here, I would like to focus on a few of the positives and negatives of using a deferred compensation strategy. For one, deferred compensation structures minimize the risks and barriers associated with ownership (good and bad!). People are given the opportunity to purchase equity for a fraction of its real value and are then rolled into a compensation plan that involves a pre-tax, pre- bonus contribution to a trust that holds these pre-




BUSINESS NEWS WARE MALCOMB ANNOUNCES CONSTRUCTION IS COMPLETE ON EXPANSION OF USC ROSKI SCHOOL OF ART AND DESIGN Ware Malcomb , an award- winning international design firm, announced construction is complete on the expansion of the University of Southern California Gayle Garner Roski School of Art and Design. Ware Malcomb provided interior architecture and design services for the project. USC’s Roski School of Art and Design is one of the oldest art schools in Southern California. The first phase of the project included 15,000 square feet of offices and classrooms. After the initial occupancy, USC realized an immediate need for more space, and teamed with Ware Malcomb to design an additional 10,000-square-foot expansion including 18 student studios and an expanded professional gallery. The school’s three graduate degree programs are now together in one space, bringing opportunities for cross collaboration with state-of-the-art amenities. The expansion also enables the school to present arts programming and public events within the Arts District neighborhood, contributing to the existing creative community. “The expansion of USC’s Roski School of Art and Design needed to not only accommodate the school’s growth, but also align with its mission of responding to – and creating – art and culture in new and meaningful ways,” said

Radwan Madani, principal of Ware Malcomb’s Los Angeles office. “This new graduate facility evokes creativity and artistic freedom for its talented students. With a timeless and flexible design, the school can continue inspiring artists as it has been for more than a century.” The reception area sets the tone for the entirety of the space with natural elements and clean lines complemented by a neutral color palette. Spotlighted by track lighting, visitors are met by a gallery which showcases the students’ talent and reinforces the purpose of the space. Natural elements such as continual concrete floors are conducive to the school’s artistic environment, while the students’ art along the walls remains an important focal point. An open concept floorplan with 18-foot ceilings and vast lighting fixtures transform the space into a modern artistic haven. Due to the sensitive nature of the art inhabiting the space, proper lighting and heat control was crucial to keeping the integrity of the students’ work. The workspace includes generously sized desks and multiple areas to enrich the learning experience. These spaces include two modular classrooms along with a maker’s space featuring various equipment such as laser cutters, 3D printers, and an equipment check out area, allowing students to utilize multiple technological resources in their artistic process.

Being in the vibrant Los Angeles Arts District, the exterior environment inspired many interior elements of the school, including the dichotomy of old and new and the industrial façade distinct to the area’s aesthetic. Ware Malcomb has completed more than1 20 projects for USC since 2014. The firm has also completed several other projects in the Los Angeles Arts District, including: providing architectural design services for 2130 Violet Street, a 9-story office/retail mixed use complex; providing interior architecture and design services for the Soylent corporate headquarters located within the At Mateo campus; and providing architecture and interior design services for 405 Mateo Street, an 83,285 square foot creative office and retail project. Established in 1972, Ware Malcomb is an international design firm providing planning, architecture, interior design, branding, civil engineering and building measurement services to commercial real estate and corporate clients. With office locations throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico, the firm specializes in the design of commercial office, corporate, industrial, science and technology, healthcare, retail, auto, public/ educational facilities and renovation projects. Ware Malcomb is recognized as a Hot Firm and Best Firm to Work For by Zweig Group.

WILL SWEARINGEN, from page 3

can get squirrely, but in some cases the funds are going directly through the trust to the exiting shareholders. All in all, new shareholders have less risk and often less urgency or motivation to find ways to “pay” for their equity. A few of the issues here are that for one, the true value of the enterprise is heavily discounted (50 percent to 80 percent in some instances). With this, there is no incentive for management to grow the firm. Management is incentivized to focus strictly on profitability (not a terribly bad thing!), and may not understand the need to grow their staff professionally and grow their firm from a revenue perspective. And this is where issues arise. It can create stagnation at the upper tier of the firm. Zweig Group is often called upon to diagnose owner alignment issues, compensation strategy, and transition for firms that have inherited a deferred compensation program. The issues are pretty consistent in that there is no value placed on the investment in the firm, there becomes a stark discrepancy between performers and non-performers, and the overall incentive structure comes into question. It can lead to entitlement issues and the firm functions more like an egalitarian society instead of a true partnership. These are just a couple of thoughts on transition strategy. Does any of this sound familiar or appealing? I am happy to discuss transition strategy and how your firm can get over the hump! WILL SWEARINGEN is director of ownership transition advisory services at Zweig Group. He can be reached at

tax, pre-bonus earnings of the firm. This trust or account can then be used to pay exiting shareholders the difference between the “value” of the equity they sold at a depressed value and get closer to the market value of the firm. In this instance, exiting shareholders are not taxed at preferred capital gains rates, but are taxed at ordinary income rates (see a tax professional to better understand your own unique situation). “People are given the opportunity to purchase equity for a fraction of its real value and are then rolled into a compensation plan that involves a pre-tax, pre-bonus contribution to a trust that holds these pre-tax, pre-bonus earnings of the firm.” The real benefit here is in the assurance that the exiting shareholder will get paid. This is potentially less risky than a traditional transfer of equity with transaction financing through the firm. Mostly because the transaction values and obligations to buyers are smaller. In a deferred compensation program, the incoming shareholder is also “contributing” to their ownership with pre-tax dollars. Incoming shareholders also do not recognize their contributions to the trust as income. This is where plans

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Work From Home & Online Learning Opportunities


NEW LIVE WEBINARS HERDING THE DOLLARS: CASH FLOW MANAGEMENT FOR AEC FIRMS - WEBINAR FREE OVERVIEW: The conversion of projects into cash – and every step from the timesheet to the invoice to the bank account – is important for the survival of any business. With a median average collection period of 70 days, AEC firms may not be able to control every aspect of the collection process, but there are steps that each firm can take to more effectively manage working capital. In this hour-long webinar, we will review Zweig Group’s data and discuss what the data tells us works for AEC firms and we will discuss specific cash flow tips to improve the collection process and control disburse- ments. THIS WEBINAR WILL AIR ON JUNE 9, 2020 AT 12 PM CST. LEARN MORE



OVERVIEW: With the uncertainty of traveling to In-Person events, Zweig Group has created a virtual seminar program for The Principals Academy. This is a 6 week pro- gram of 2 hours each week of a live zoom meeting with our seminar instructors. These meetings will be a mix of presentations as well as open ended Q&A sessions. This will be the same great content that is taught during our in-person The Principals Academy seminar that has trained over 800 attendees in the last 5 years. This program will have a limit of 30 participants so each participant will have time to ask questions and get the same cohort feel as an in-person seminar does. THIS VIRTUAL SEMINAR WILL BEGIN ON JUNE 17, 2020 AT 10 AM CST PROJECT MANAGEMENT FOR AEC PROFESSIONALS - VIRTUAL SEMINAR PRICE: $499 LEARN MORE OVERVIEW: With the uncertainty of traveling to In-Person events, Zweig Group has created a NEW virtual seminar program perfect for upcoming and current project managers. This is a 6 week program of 1 hours each week live zoom meetings with our seminar instructors. These meetings will be a mix of presentations, discussions, and open ended Q&A sessions, with the ability to continue the discussion via discussion forum from week to week. This will be the same great content that is taught during our in-person Project Management for AEC Professionals seminar. This program will have a limit of 30 participants so each participant will have time to ask questions and get the same cohort feel as an in-person seminar does. THIS VIRTUAL SEMINAR WILL BEGIN ON JUNE 30, 2020 AT 11 AM CST


Zweig Group is an approved provider by the AIA & SHRM




Investing in the future: John Meyer Founder of edg (New York, NY), a technology-driven firm that leverages the power of software and equipment to deliver higher quality projects in less time.


e dg is an award-winning collective of designers, architects, engineers, and makers, all dedicated to changing the future of the built environment. Since 2004, the firm has completed a staggering 2,850 projects – a testament to edg’s expertise in the design, renovation, and restoration of buildings. John Meyer, the company’s founder, is at the forefront of technology innovation for the design and construction industry. He has extensive experience in architectural design and structural engineering. He’s founded several other companies, including Mosaic, a project and business management software startup, to help firms focus on design. “I can speak from experience that having the right system in place allows great people to do great work, and I don’t think you can have one without the other,” Meyer says. A CONVERSATION WITH JOHN MEYER. The Zweig Letter: How has COVID-19 impacted your firm’s policy on telecommuting/working remotely?

John Meyer: We’ve had some experience working remotely and managing outside consultants, but as a policy, we’ve only allowed remote working for short time periods. Our entire company has been fully remote since mid-March, and we are fortunate in that we’ve already been using digital systems to handle almost everything for years. This pandemic has gotten our entire staff well trained to handle remote work, which will permit us to expand our telecommuting policy once things get going again. Ultimately, it will offer our staff more flexibility and potentially allow us to hire remote workers for some roles. Our work is largely visual though, so while much of the work can be done remotely, certain things are still much easier to convey in the same room. Our drafting tools will be made more collaborative in the next year, easing some of those limitations making remote collaboration significantly easier. TZL: How far into the future are you able to reliably predict your workload and cashflow?



JM: We can now see all the way through to the end of all of our proposed or planned work. The level of detail and data we can easily access has been eye-opening. The software is fluid and flexible, and takes only five to 10 minutes a week for an associate to staff their teams. It’s been a really seismic shift, and has given us clarity on the work we can take on, who will be free to work on it given their predicted workloads, who can focus on R&D projects and when we will need to hire to fill the anticipated need. We’ve found that planning the workload keeps everyone productive, which not only increases our efficiency and utilization of team members, but drives up our profitability by magnitudes. TZL: Artificial intelligence and machine learning are potential disruptors across all industries. Is your firm exploring how to incorporate these technologies into providing improved services for clients? JM: We’ve been using AI on the architectural design side to help us iterate through a range of design options. We’ve even created a program that allows us to create buildings with customized facades that can have a different surface pattern design on every square foot if desired. It’s called Synthesis, and we were proud that we received the Architecture Masterprize last year for it. We use an algorithmic approach to structural design, utilizing Grasshopper scripts to create parametric analysis models with extensive load cases and structural layouts to optimize the design in ways never before possible. This process places material precisely where it is needed, and removes it where it is not, to create cost- effective systems that are stronger, lighter, and safer. TZL: You founded edg in 2004. What was your greatest challenge in getting the business up and running? How did you overcome it? JM: When I began the company, I was only four years out from graduating with my undergraduate degree, so I faced tremendous challenges. Just the work involved in hiring and creating systems to run the office was probably the most significant hurdle initially, and all these years later, they remain the two most important factors to doing our best work. I can speak from experience that having the right system in place allows great people to do great work, and I don’t think you can have one without the other. Since our founding, I’ve spent an incredible

amount of time, energy, and resources to create a system that handles everything we need it to do. I was surprised by how fragmented the existing solutions were, each covering specific aspects of the business or all-in-ones for general use, but none encompassing the entirety of what we needed. Recognizing the potentially profound impact such a solution could have on our day-to-day work, I began designing software to handle everything in one place. Over the years, it’s been continuously tweaked and refined, adding things, removing others, as well as getting a ton of feedback from outside architects and engineers, until we had something that worked seamlessly. TZL: How has COVID-19 affected your business on a daily basis? JM: It’s a new challenge with work routines being altered so dramatically. We’ve used this downtime to invest in our staff’s education, and to upgrade new systems we couldn’t find the time to, including our CRM and field forms. We’ve been using a project and business management program to handle operations called Mosaic, from a software company that I founded. It was designed for digital communication and collaboration, which of course becomes a necessity with everyone working remotely. With this tool, edg’s leadership team can easily get an overview of what everyone is working on, and the team can track projects and communicate what needs to be done. These features have always been powerful, but during this crisis, with everything changing from one day to the next and trying to keep everyone busy, they have proved invaluable. TZL: Are you using the R&D tax credit? If so, how is it working for your firm? If not, why not? JM: Yes, we have a very strong R&D department working on some cutting-edge construction products using the credit, and it works as intended. It allows one to take advantage of the collective knowledge of the firm, investing in the future of the company, while non-billable/non-project time is used effectively. I recommend it to all firms.






❚ ❚ Project management

❚ ❚ Planning

❚ ❚ Architectural design

❚ ❚ Structural engineering

❚ ❚ Material science

❚ ❚ Restoration


TZL: Are you seeking some kind of financial assistance during the COVID-19? If so, what type?


JM: We are currently seeking several sources of funding, most of which come through various arms of the Small Business See INVESTING IN THE FUTURE, page 8


© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

AY 18, 2020, ISSUE 1345



Administration. Like most businesses, we have applied for the Payroll Protection Program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, and the NYC Small Business Continuity Loan Fund, but, as of yet, have not received any funds. We’ve been informed that the initial round of funds for the PPP Loans ran out, so while we wait for additional funding for the program, we have drawn down on our line of credit to strengthen our balance sheet and ensure we can weather this crisis. We are doing everything we can to keep the entire team together during this time. TZL: When you identify a part of your business that is not pulling its weight in terms of profitability or alignment with the firm’s mission, what steps do you take, and what’s the timeline, to address the issue while minimizing impacts to the rest of the company? JM: We’re continually assessing the work we do to make sure it’s aligned with our overall mission and vision for the company, and we will pass on work that is not a fit. Given the length of time it takes to complete a project, you can’t get too far ahead with hiring, or you may be forced to accept work you wouldn’t otherwise, just to keep the lights on. It’s always a delicate balance and needs to be thoughtfully evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Some projects won’t be profitable, but will likely lead to more profitable work; some are complex and we like the challenge, and some we just enjoy working on. The decision-making process involves discussing the benefits and negatives of each project type fully so that the answer ultimately becomes clear. TZL: What measures are you taking to protect your employees during the COVID-19 crisis? JM: Our office is located in midtown Manhattan, so we began working remotely mid-March, which we will continue to do until the city lifts the quarantine. We advised our staff to wear gloves and a mask from the very first days of the quarantine. We hold frequent safety calls and checks to ensure that people are staying safe, especially in earliest days when some were still visiting project sites. During this time, we have been 3D printing face shields for healthcare workers, so we’ve had to work out a system of going to the office and coordinating delivery for those, but otherwise, we’ve been able to stay fully operational and productive from home while keeping everyone safe. TZL: They say failure is a great teacher. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way? JM: There have been so many expensive lessons along the way. Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned is to hire the right person for the job. Our hiring process is now extensive and costly, but worth every penny. Positions can take months to fill, but finding the right fit provides a quick return on investment. TZL: How are you staying in touch with your clients during this pandemic? JM: Beyond the normal email communication with clients, we are relying more heavily on screen sharing for plan

An example of what is possible with Synthesis, the computer-aided design software edg developed to allow users to create custom facades.

reviews, and VR walkthroughs using Enscape and IrisVR. With construction projects completely shut down here in NYC, we are using the time to check in on our clients, and see how they are holding up with everything going on. As you can imagine, everyone is very eager to get back to work. TZL: Research shows that PMs are overworked, understaffed, and that many firms do not have formal training programs for PMs. What is your firm doing to support its PMs? JM: We adhere to the philosophy that if a PM is constantly behind, there’s a bigger problem. With extensive senior management training, we’ve managed to alleviate the issue of overworked PMs by staying focused on what’s important, and working far enough ahead on deadlines, which the entire team sees daily, so there are no surprises. We also keep an eye on our workload to make sure that we get out ahead of any hiring needs and don’t take on anything we can’t handle. Our PMs also use software tools that structure proper communication, documentation, and transparency, which naturally handle the core of good project management. TZL: You’ve founded companies that had to do with software development. How do they fit in with architecture and engineering and why? Was it a natural transition? JM: Software is a branch of engineering, and I think the transition was very natural because the thought process and approaches are the same in that you are designing and building solutions to complex problems. For me, sometimes the problem is software related, and other times, it’s in the built environment. I think that as we see more software used in architecture, engineering, and design, we’re recognizing the inherent synergies, which we are continually exploring. I would also say that in architecture and engineering, our work is, quite literally, built-in stone. There is absolutely no margin for error, particularly in the arena of structural engineering. Working on software, by comparison, is far less stressful.

© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Now is a good time to take stock of the many positive aspects of our industry to help keep yourself and your employees motivated and directed in the midst of uncertainty. What’s so great about the A/E business?

I have worked my entire professional career in the A/E industry. After completing graduate school, I started in a management consulting and recruiting firm and had A/E firms as clients in 1980. I eventually became an owner in one of my early client companies at age 25 or 26, went on to start my own company (what is today Zweig Group) at 30, and then worked with literally thousands of people and companies in this business over the last 32 years.

Mark Zweig

Over that time, I also started or helped start a number of other businesses including a motorcycle shop, a reading clinic, a baby products company, and a design/build general contracting and development company. I also served on many BODs of A/E firms and was an owner in several of those. I am now in my 16th year of working as a college professor teaching entrepreneurship at The Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. If nothing else, no one can say I lack perspective. This year, at the end of the semester, I wrote a blogpost where I provided my best advice for graduating seniors. One of my key points for them was to find an industry that they enjoy and to get into that. Those who do that will never have to

shift gears and step back. Everything they learn will be useful and build upon the last thing they learned. It got me thinking. What’s so great about the A/E business, and why do I love it so much? I thought I would share my thoughts for you, our readers, to perhaps use when recruiting new graduates who have other choices, as well as to get other newcomers into our industry. Or, to help convince people who are thinking of leaving our business for another one in a different industry that they could be making a mistake. Here are my thoughts on some of the many awesome “pluses” of working in an A/E firm:

See MARK ZWEIG, page 10



BUSINESS NEWS OZ ARCHITECTURE DESIGNS WELLAGE GREELEY SENIOR LIVING COMMUNITY Award-winning national architecture and design firm OZ Architecture has designed a new 71,000 square foot senior living community in Greeley, Colorado. OZ was selected for the architecture and interior design of the 92-unit community by Rocky Mountain Senior Housing, a leading developer of senior living communities that are designed to enrich the quality of life for older adults and their families. The project will be operated by WellAge. WellAge Greeley sits on 3.5 acres and includes independent living, assisted living and memory care housing. The memory care wing consists of 24 units that flank a common area warming kitchen, dining room and living/activity area that connect to a secure outdoor garden. The

assisted living wing provides 48 units with a mix of one bedroom and studio spaces, and the independent living wing provides 20 units, also with a mix of one bedroom and studio spaces. Common amenity spaces will include a two-story lobby with stairs that encourage residents to walk rather than take the elevator, fitness studio, salon, theater/chapel, multiple dining rooms, reading rooms, sunrooms and a multipurpose room for community activities or social functions. Exterior spaces will include walking paths, community garden planting beds and a greenhouse. The building is inspired by the aesthetic of the neighboring mixed-use development and rural heritage of Greeley. The façade has a contemporary design to blend it with the neighboring buildings, utilizing naturally

appearing stained wood siding, stone veneer and fiber cement panels. The interior palate is a fresh utilization of hospitality-inspired design that creates an environment that residents enjoy and encourages families to stay longer with their loved ones. Headquartered in the vibrant RiNo district of Denver, and with studios in Boulder and Colorado Springs, OZ Architecture has been at the forefront of design since 1964. The OZ team includes over 165 architects, designers, strategists, and artists whose broad range of expertise and passions create a variety of project types on every continent. The firm is recognized for designing award-winning projects that make a positive and lasting contribution to the community.

MARK ZWEIG, from page 9

of medicine really provide that, and in some ways you have fewer constraints on what you can really earn in the A/E business than they do. You don’t have insurance companies or regulators telling you what you can charge for the most part. 5)You will never have to become obsolete. There are few constraints on the services your business can provide in order to adapt to changes in the marketplace. This is not a capital-intensive industry. There are no constraints on your ability to continue learning and developing your expertise to meet the needs of a changing market. Not every business and industry can claim that. Some are so wedded to particular technologies that become obsolete which makes the skills of their employees obsolete. 6)You can change the world. Who – working in what business – can honestly say that? Not many. But you can. You have the potential to solve enormous societal problems that affect the quality of life for all of us – perhaps now more than ever before. You can also leave a tangible mark on the world and see what you have accomplished and contributed to. That is incredibly gratifying. 7)You work in a business that is still needed and can function in the midst of a crisis such as the current pandemic. Thank God what A/E firms do is a truly essential service. On top of that, you have proved that most of you and your employees can work remotely from home if you have to. Try doing that if you are in the restaurant business – or the brick and mortar retail business – or the professional sports business – or leisure travel – or dentistry – or any other of many other industries and professions. There are so many others who are so much more vulnerable than we are in this industry. We all face the temptation to succumb to negativity and lament opportunities lost or complain about problems we are having to deal with. But maybe it is now a good time to take stock of the many positive aspects of the industry we all work in to help keep yourself and your employees motivated and directed in the midst of uncertainty. I think that is an important role of leadership. And I know I feel better about this industry today more than ever! MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

1)You do something our society really needs. Not every business can claim that. One could argue that we could really do without soft drinks or cigarettes, or $170,000 Porsches, or yet another brand of $200 women’s fashion jeans. But we cannot do without the people and businesses who solve huge problems such as how to provide clean water to a community, or how to provide staged housing for people later in life, or how to make retail environments that are safe and efficient, or provide transportation facilities that pay for themselves and facilitate movement of people and essential goods. And these things are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all of the things A/E firms do. You are so critical in so many different ways and touch nearly every aspect of everyone’s life, that it is impossible to list them all here or anywhere else. 2)You get to work with honest and ethical people. I think many of you take this for granted but believe me, not everyone working in another industry can claim that. Some industries are plagued with constant ethical problems because they attract greedy people or people who truly don’t mind hurting other people as long as it benefits them personally. How much is that really worth to you? I think it is worth a great deal. It has been proved through research that it is very hard to remain ethical if everyone you work with isn’t. Who wants to be corrupted? I know I don’t! 3)You get to work with intelligent, creative, “can-do” people. You have some amazing and talented coworkers. They can meet any challenge or solve practically any problem they are asked by clients to solve. How interesting are those people and how inspirational it is to be around them! That is so energizing in itself and you can’t put a price on it. 4)You have a chance to do really well financially. When I started in this business 40 years ago it was practically conventional wisdom that you had to take a vow of poverty to work in our industry. No one can say that today. Do you know how many people I know who make $200,000, $400,000, or, in some cases, millions of dollars a year in this business? Many! This industry can provide a fantastic living to those who master not only their requisite design and technical disciplines but also the BUSINESS of this business. There are so many opportunities to do good for people and to do really well at the same time. Few other “industries” outside

© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Architects as advocates

It’s our responsibility as AEC professionals, as well as citizens, to champion solutions to problems that affect our global and local communities.

A s architects, we are increasingly called upon to do more than make buildings. While we once pursued our practice as members of the world of design, now we are concerned with the design of the world. I believe it’s our responsibility as architects, as well as citizens, to champion solutions to problems that affect the global and local community.

Dan Piselli

Using our participation in a recent campaign for designing bird-friendly buildings as an illustration of a successful effort, I’ll outline four steps to getting an effective advocacy campaign off the ground: 1)Get consensus on your cause. In this complicated, interconnected world, there’s no shortage of compelling issues to investigate. Our Managing Partner Guy Geier recommends a two-pronged approach to activism in architecture, distinguishing issues from within the profession, such as increasing diversity, equity, and licensure, from broader societal issues, including climate change and resiliency, preservation, and affordable housing. As director of sustainability, I’m acutely aware of the AEC industry’s responsibility to address aspects of climate change that are damaging our ecology,

and of the need to build consensus to sway opinion. Buildings are one of the primary causes of a nearly 30 percent drop in North American bird populations over the last 50 years. Before considering legislation for bird-safe buildings, decades of scientific research was conducted to build consensus on causes of the collision issue, and solutions to it. And, bird-safe building examples had to be built and studied. 2)Define your message. While pinpointing an issue is helpful to honing your focus, that approach can be limiting as well. Making the conversation more inclusive broadens the appeal of your campaign while still remaining true to your core cause. We linked the bird/building collision problem to broader topics of climate change and impact on the environment, making it a shared ethical and social responsibility. For example, pointing out that while

See DAN PISELLI, page 12



ON THE MOVE ARUP NAMES BRIAN SWETT ITS NEW BOSTON OFFICE LEADER Arup , a global consulting, engineering, and design firm pioneering in urban sustainability and resilience in the built environment, announced that Brian Swett, Arup principal and Americas Cities Leader, has been appointed as the new Boston office leader to helm Arup’s Boston group. Swett is a nationally recognized expert on climate change and sustainable development with more than a decade of experience leading projects in the public and private sectors. As Boston office leader, Swett will lead the continued growth and impact of Arup’s Boston office by delivering top quality projects that provide social and economic value while enhancing sustainability and resilience. Swett led Arup’s recent work with Boston University, the Boston Green Ribbon Commission, and City of Boston to produce the buildings analysis for the Carbon Free Boston strategy, identifying policies and technologies to achieve building sector net carbon neutrality by mid-century. Arup’s Boston office has also undertaken the task of assessing 30 facilities across Partners HealthCare’s system to help them better understand how to prepare for and maintain continuity of service during climate change-driven natural disasters. “It is an honor to be taking on this role for Arup Boston. I look forward to working with

our clients and collaborators to continue producing exemplary projects and broadening our impact locally and around the world,” said Swett. Swett will continue to build Arup’s reputation as a leader in the design and delivery of smart infrastructure and high-performance buildings, parlaying the firm’s success on a wide range of projects into new opportunities. Arup’s Boston office portfolio includes the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Greenline Extension, which provides the first direct rail link to two of metro-Boston’s two densely populated and underserved areas; the John W. Olver Transit Center, the first net-zero energy transit center in the U.S.; and Northeastern University’s Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Complex, an award winning high-performance building that exemplifies the combination of design aesthetics and sustainability. “We are excited that Brian will lead and grow a diverse and robust office capable of delivering the best of Arup to Boston,” said Andy Howard, chair of Arup Americas. “With Brian’s spearheading our Boston office, we look forward to progressing high quality work for our clients and ensuring positive impact in the communities our projects serve.” Swett joined Arup in 2015 to lead the firm’s Cities and Sustainable Real Estate business. He has played a key role overseeing Arup’s

involvement in major efforts to address climate change at the state and municipal level, including the Carbon Free Boston plan and the state of Massachusetts’ 80x50 emissions reduction planning initiative. He has also provided extensive sustainability and climate action insight for private sector developers and owners, including Boston Properties, Invesco, HYM, and Pembroke. Swett leads Arup Americas’ ongoing activities with C40, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network. He is currently serving as the co-chair of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce’s Energy and Climate Leadership Council and serves on the Urban Land Institute’s Center for Sustainability and Economic Performance Advisory Board. Prior joining to Arup, Swett was the chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space for the city of Boston. Arup provides consulting, planning, engineering, and design services for the most prominent projects and sites in the built environment. Since its founding in 1946, the firm has consistently delivered technical excellence, innovation, and value to its clients, while maintaining its core mission of shaping a better world. The firm’s employee-ownership structure promotes independence, unbiased advice, and ongoing investment in joint research to yield better outcomes that benefit its clients and partners.

DAN PISELLI, from page 11

organizations provided scientific insight into bird behavior, habitat, and ecology, which, coupled with our technical expertise and previous experience, allowed us to address questions and concerns of a wide variety of stakeholders. The local chapter of the American Institute of Architects partnered with the BSBA in support of the legislation. 4)Spread the word. Depending on your objective, there are many avenues of communication you can utilize to get the message out and call your community to action. Your firm’s website is a natural starting point; use blog posts to keep your colleagues and coworkers up to date on activities. Engage with key individuals and organizations on social media. Write an op-ed or a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, or to relevant publications whose readers are a logical target for your cause. Local professional organizations often have a program of speakers; look into getting on their calendar to make a public presentation. In the end, our participation in advocacy paid off: NYC’s bird-safe construction bill was passed and it will lead to demonstrable change. As an architect, I am proud to have served as part of a team of professionals that helped and continues to help shape the built environment for the better. DAN PISELLI is director of sustainability at FXCollaborative. Dan has extensive experience on LEED projects in the U.S. and internationally, and has pioneered exploration of Passive House at FXCollaborative. He is also an industry leader on bird-friendly building design and is a board member of the Bird-Safe Glass Foundation. Dan recently presented FXCollaborative’s bird-safe building strategies at the AIA in Washington, D.C., for the DC Department of Energy and Environment. Contact him a

architects often use glass to connect people with nature, if done wrong, that glass can literally kill the nature we all seek to connect with. “In the end, our participation in advocacy paid off: NYC’s bird-safe construction bill was passed and it will lead to demonstrable change. As an architect, I am proud to have served as part of a team of professionals that helped and continues to help shape the built environment for the better.” 3)Build a team. Internally, a committee structure is a good way to organize your advocacy work. By delegating roles – who will be the face of your cause, who will coordinate communication, who will act as project manager, and so on – it will be easier to keep things on track and moving forward. Externally, investigate organizations that have a similar focus and decide if and how a strategic alliance could be mutually beneficial. To collaborate on bird-friendly building issues, we helped form the Bird-Safe Buildings Alliance to team up with other architects and avian experts at the American Bird Conservancy and NYC Audubon, among others. These

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