2008 Industry Outlook
Designer's Challenge: The housing downturn is forcing architects to get creative.
As they await the end of the housing slowdown that has left them with fewer projects to compete for, Florida’s architects are seeking opportunities wherever they can find them. Miami architect Abe Kadushin, for example, is focusing on low-income, government housing rather than the condominiums and subdivision homes that architects feasted on just a few years ago.?
“You’re not going to see the McMansions as much. People can’t afford to cool them, and they can’t afford to pay the taxes and insurance.” — Miami architect Abe Kadushin
[Photo: Daniel Portnoy]
Kadushin is working on several low-income projects in Miami. He also designed a low-income housing component of a mixed-use project being built in Punta Gorda. Called Gulf Breeze Village, the development will replace some of the affordable housing destroyed more than three years ago by Hurricane Charley.
The loss of residential work has created opportunity in other areas. “The high-end luxury condominium market has slowed down substantially, almost to a halt,” says Luis Revuelta, an architect at Miami-based Revuelta Vega Leon. “But now we’re getting a lot of calls for hotels and office buildings.”
Guy Peterson, a Sarasota architect, thinks green design is slowly evolving beyond the marketers who have been heavily promoting the concept of creating buildings that save energy and water and use more renewable materials. Now, he says, it’s something that many of his clients demand, even if it might boost construction costs by a percentage point or two.
“It makes great sense, using natural light and using natural breezes to help a building breathe,” he says. “It’s also being more sensitive in the types of materials you select.”
Kadushin sees the green trend as leading to smaller, simpler homes with cross ventilation — much like the bungalows that were common in Florida before air conditioning became widespread. “You’re not going to see the McMansions as much,” he says. “People can’t afford to cool them, and they can’t afford to pay the taxes and insurance. I know my air-conditioning bill has doubled over the last five years. Part of the green movement is a lesser footprint.”
As of January 2007, there were 10 LEED-certified buildings in Florida, according to the U.S. Green Building Council. By the end of the year, the total had more than doubled to 22.
Last year, Paul D’Arelli, a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig in Fort Lauderdale, became Florida’s first attorney to be certified as a LEED-accredited professional by the U.S. Green Building Council. Guiding clients through the LEED process quickly became a major part of his practice. He expects more lawyers to earn the accreditation this year as demand for green building grows.
“Now that the first generation of green buildings are up, the data is starting to come out and show that, yes, these buildings are operating more efficiently,” D’Arelli says. “It makes good business sense. It’s hard to figure out why somebody wouldn’t do it, other than the feeling of the unknown because they haven’t been through it before.”