Influencers in the building process

​The construction industry is changing from a very traditional and slow moving one towards a more dynamic and digital industry . In the past decade, buildings have become more complex. Digitalization like BIM started to make an impact and clients became more demanding. New techniques and materials further increased the complexity. These developments obviously have consequences for the architects and the (new) knowledge they need to develop. As the complexity increases more and more roles are delegated towards other professionals, especially in large projects. Furthermore, design-build construction methods could have a negative role on the influence of architects as well, because most of these design-build projects were and are led by the contractor (although architect-led design–build could have a positive influence). All in all, the concept of the architect as the “master builder” has been declining. In previous articles I already described how the influence of the architects on brand and product choice for some product categories is declining and how architects are losing influence in the building process to various other actors. In this article, based on the European Architectural Barometer (Q2 2017 Future role of architects report), we will look at which actors are gaining influence. The focus is on Germany, but comparisons will be made with other countries.

Influencers of the building process

The principal and engineering companies are strong influencers of the building process in Germany. The majority of the German architects (53%) mention that the principal is considered as the most important influencer of the building process. Engineering companies which are active in the construction industry (47%) and in the installation industry (36%), are second and third regarding the influence on the building process.  

Strong position for the principal

In almost all countries, the principal and the engineering companies have a strong position according to the architects.  There are strong differences per country. The main contractor has a strong position in the Netherlands and the UK. In Germany, this is only 12%.

Outsourcing by architects

Approximately 53% of the German architects outsource parts of their activities, of which 49% of the work is outsourced to other specialized companies and 5% is outsourced to specified departments within the company. The highest share of architects in Europe that outsource can be found  in Poland (84%). The architects in France outsource the least (31%).  

On a European level, calculations for construction are outsourced the most by architects. The architects in Spain outsource the most calculations for construction (74%). For Germany, this is 63%.

The future

It is also interesting to see that the German architects expect an increase of influence in the next five years for the engineering companies for installation (46%) and HVAC installation companies in Germany (43%) regarding the building process, next to the engineers and contractors.  

Are these developments a bad thing?

It seems that the architects are losing influence, but the question is if this is a bad thing. If architects focus more on designing and less on project management and calculations of complex installations, companies that specialise in that particular field (like engineering companies) will step in. This should, in theory, lead to better installations and project management as these companies are specialised and have all the relevant knowledge needed. However, it will also lead to more complexity as more parties are getting involved in an early stage of the building process. BIM obviously can facilitate this, but only if it’s used and understood by all parties involved. On the other hand, architects could try to regain control over the building process and perhaps try to focus on architect-led design–build methods. However, this will bring them into direct competition with contractors. Obviously, the role and position of the architect is different per country. In the full report these differences are highlighted.