TREB’s Trends in Architecture Survey

Bob Inaba, AIA, executive vice president and director of design, and Scott Wilkinson, AIA, executive vice president and commercial team leader, with Kirksey:

What architectural design trends are currently spreading throughout Texas?

More projects are mixed-use in nature, as opposed to single-use buildings. Green design is much more widespread and commonplace than ever before, as developers, users, lenders and tenants desire sustainability and LEED certification. Also significant is the increasing importance of design and quality in design.

What upcoming design trends are you most excited about in the architecture industry?

One of the more exciting design trends is the use of climatic and environmental data, research, metrics and design parameters in an integrated approach to designing High Performance Buildings. Energy modeling and daylight analysis are becoming a normal part of the design process. The increased use of local materials now place a building as a product of a place, and they are more regional in inception.

How is the economic climate affecting commercial architecture?

The economic climate is having a major negative impact on commercial design opportunities in Texas. We have seen a significant drop in the number of commercial projects moving forward since the spring of 2008. Currently, even well conceived projects with high percentage lease commitments cannot secure funding and successful companies are reluctant to begin new projects due to the uncertain times.

What property types are most in demand?

The property types most in demand are public and institutional project types like government agencies, educational facilities and healthcare facilities, because they are not dependent on financing through real estate loans.

What is your biggest challenge as a commercial architect?

The biggest challenge has shifted from finding enough talented people to produce the work to finding enough work to keep our talented people busy. As commercial architects, we are very fortunate to work for a highly diversified firm that is not 100 percent dependent on commercial projects.

What projects has your firm completed in Texas that you feel encompass the future of commercial design?

The 11000 Equity Drive Office Building for Satterfield & Pontikes Construction best encompasses the future of commercial design. It was the first LEED-Gold CS in Houston, and it was designed and documented using Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology, in which the design and construction team created a true virtual building that earned Kirksey an AIA Honor award.

What has been your favorite commercial project to work on in your Texas portfolio?

Memorial Hermann Medical Plaza is a complex, vertical mixed-use project in the Texas Medical Center in Houston. The mission of coordinating the complexity of uses, the density and visibility of the urban location, the image desired by the client and user within the economic parameters of an investment medical office building was challenging and exciting.

Gary Caltwedt, AIA, associate principal, and Joel Efrussy, AIA, associate, with Gromatzky Dupree & Associates in Dallas:

What architectural design trends are currently spreading throughout Texas?

The most significant architectural trend that we are seeing is the focus on sustainable design. The other major design trend we are seeing in Dallas, and in other large metropolitan areas as well, is a much more sophisticated approach to urbanism, both in terms of the overall design of large developments, and of individual buildings.

What upcoming design trends are you most excited about in the architecture industry?

We have seen a growing interest in urbanism. This is a much more sophisticated way of thinking about buildings and their roles in the places we live. This marks a very important step in the evolution of Texas architecture and how we relate to the built environment. The second trend is a growing interest and comfort level with Modernism. As cities like Dallas mature, there is a growing sentiment that Dallas can, and should, chart its own course architecturally.

How is the economic climate affecting commercial architecture?

We have noticed a dramatic decline in lending practice opportunities for developers over the past three quarters. The office has shelved several high-rise residential tower projects due to this lending climate. The shelved projects have a 50/50 chance of starting construction in 2009. There has been a dramatic decline in demand for architectural services over the last three quarters for housing projects.

What property types are most in demand?

In 2008, manufacturing and institutional were the leaders in construction starts while housing, commercial properties and engineering fell below previous year increases. Projections for 2009 call for decreases in housing, commercial properties, manufacturing and institutional compared to 2008, with engineering showing an increase in construction starts over 2008. The tightening of commercial lending practices has had the biggest effect in slowing down construction.

What is your biggest challenge as a commercial architect?

Diversifying the practice to gain access to active markets projected in the coming years.

What projects has your firm completed in Texas that you feel encompass the future of commercial design?

Our Park Lane at North Central Expressway project is a part of a 33-acre, master-planned redevelopment area with multiple developers, architects and consultants. The second project is a brownfield development located on McKinney Avenue, near downtown Dallas. It is a high-rise residential apartment tower called 1900 McKinney. Both projects are located on redevelopment sites, utilize high-end material and finish selections, and qualify for LEED-Silver Certification.

What has been your favorite commercial project to work on in your Texas portfolio?

That would be The Ashton high-end residential tower located across from the Crescent on Cedar Springs. What makes it high on the list of favorites was the decision to make the exterior materials equal to the high-end quality of the interior finishes. The Ashton has set a new standard of living quality in Dallas and has been a very successful rental property since its completion in 2005.

A Different Viewpoint: A Commercial Designer Gives Her Insight on the Design Industry

Alexis Pearl

Commercial designers are charged with ensuring the health, safety and welfare of all who may use or occupy the space they design, according to the American Society of Interior Designers’ web site. They work hand-in-hand with the architect, general contractor and other team members in every phase of the project to create a final product that meets the owner’s expectations from the inside out. Texas Real Estate Business spoke with Alexis Pearl, an up-and-coming commercial designer in the Dallas office of PageSoutherlandPage (PSP), to get her perspective on the state of the commercial design industry in Texas.

TREB: What trends are you seeing in your field?

Pearl: As far as trends go, sustainable design seems to be on everyone’s mind. There’s a big green movement not only happening in the design world, but in politics and government as well. The practice of sustainable design is becoming more apparent in every step of the design process. Before, I used to approach the client with the “radical” idea of green design, but now, I have clients asking me what I’m doing to create sustainable spaces before I even broach the subject. I’m most excited to see everyone embrace the challenges and rewards of sustainable design.

TREB: Is the current economic recession impacting your work?

Pearl: The economic climate is definitely affecting the design industry.  For a while, we were hearing stories about firms laying off 10 of their 15 employees in one day, or having to close their doors all together. It’s hard for the design world when the economy suffers because our service is a commodity. As a result, we are seeing fewer projects, and several projects that were scheduled to be built in 2009 are being put on hold until things pick back up. 

TREB: Are you seeing more demand for any particular property type?

Pearl: I can say that right now a majority of our work consists of healthcare. Luckily for PSP, about 80 percent of our projects are healthcare related, so we haven’t seen too much of a decline in relation to the current economy. Healthcare is always going to be strong because, to put it simply, everyone ages, so there is always a demand for these types of spaces.

©2009 France Publications, Inc. Duplication or reproduction of this article not permitted without authorization from France Publications, Inc. For information on reprints of this article contact Barbara Sherer at (630) 554-6054.

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