Friday, May 1, 2009


Yes. Precisely now. Although the building industry is currently undergoing a massive contraction due to the effects of the global economic downturn, opportunities are available for those with the foresight and courage to pursue them.

While it is true that many projects are being suspended or cancelled, new commissions are rare, and significant numbers of jobs are being lost in architecture, engineering and construction as well as real estate development, all is not lost.

Some of the weakest firms - and these are not necessarily the smallest - will not survive the financial pressures now being felt, but those with sufficient ongoing work and solid contacts for new projects can and will weather the storm, as has been the case in previous recessions as well.

The more interesting question is: which firms will not only survive, but thrive? Will it be the most well established big players? Will it be small, agile firms able to turn on a dime? (And are there new markets or products, workflows or services for the AEC industry which will change the existing balance?) Although there is no clear answer yet to which type or size of company will best succeed in the coming few years, it is clear that many factors are converging which will alter the playing field and perhaps even change the rules of the game. In fact, it is those firms which are still solvent but no longer buried in an avalanche of work which may now be most favorably positioned to take stock of the new circumstances, think about how to improve on their past performance, and act accordingly.

New markets include those developing countries whose recent upswing in wealth resulted from globalization but which also have robust domestic markets. New products include prefabricated yet customized buildings including hotels and housing whose relatively recent introduction and acceptance is being further fuelled by reductions in income of prospective owners. New opportunities range from government-funded construction program(me)s aimed at economic stimulus, to sustainability-related challenges such as low- and zero-energy buildings and settlements, to crisis-response measures such as the Small Island Developing States' urgent needs to adapt to rising sea levels and storms of increasing frequency and strength.

Fortunately, new technologies also are available to help address these and other challenges faced by building owners, designers and constructors. Among these are building information modeling (BIM), decision-support tools, and ever more sophisticated CAD, CAE, CAM and PLM packages for applications from planning and design through analysis, simulation, fabrication, construction, commissioning and operation of building facilities. These and others can help, but we at AEC Connect have found that while software and other appropriate technology can be invaluable in supporting best practice efforts, it is not sufficient to apply them without significant attention to human and organizational factors including existing company cultures and basic communication and negotiation skills. So while technologies are part of the answer, they are not the whole answer to today's challenges.

More information is available from AEC Connect ( about strategies which building owners, architects, engineers and contractors can implement to not only face and survive their industry's current and future challenges, but also benefit from the current and future opportunities of the building sector.

[AEC_Connect consulting offers building owners, designers and builders advice regarding Integrated Project Delivery and other AEC business practices requiring and promoting high levels of collaborative work. Our main areas of consultancy are BIM-readiness, Optioneering, and Sense-Making which together address most of the data management, decision making and communication needs faced by our clients. Additional information about our services is available at]