FloridaTrend.com, the Website for Florida Business


Working in Florida 2008

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.?

Abe Kadushin
“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]
“I see the revitalization of basically obsolete inner-city public housing as a near and long-term trend,” he says. “A lot of the government housing is now approaching 40, 50 years old. These sites are often in distressed areas of cities, and they can become very valuable.”

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.”

The Trends

? Going small
? More projects seeking LEED green certification
? Opportunities in the inner city
? Increased competition for architects and engineers
? Accountants pursuing mobility
? Tight budget squeezing the judiciary
? More specialty areas of law practice, including two — education law and adoption law — the state Supreme Court is expected to consider this year

Slim Pickings

The state’s economy is churning out less work, which means more competition for engineering firms, particularly those that depend on government contracts. Ed Buck, principal and vice president of Inwood Consulting Engineers in Winter Springs, says his firm, which specializes in roadway and drainage design, has had to step up its marketing efforts to win jobs. “Workload-wise, I think there’s a bit of a slowdown of some of the work from the state,” Buck says. “Counties and cities are getting impacted also. I think a lot of it stems from tax reform and the issues with property taxes.” He says the economy is forcing some firms to team up on jobs.

Going Mobile

For Florida accountants, the global economy often ends at the state line. State-licensed CPAs wanting to do business out of state now face burdensome regulations and paperwork, says Dave Dennis, president of the Florida Institute of CPAs and a national partner for KPMG. He says Florida CPAs have joined a national “mobility” effort that would ease the rules and allow them to more easily serve clients who do business across state lines. The next step is convincing legislators to go along. “It’ll be on the table for discussion in 2008,” Dennis says. Ten other states, including Tennessee, Illinois, Virginia and Texas, have already approved the new rules.

Judicial Funding
Florida’s judicial branch consumed .7% of the state’s budget in 2007. The National Center for State Courts last compared judicial funding, state by state, in 2004. Here are the top five and bottom five funded judicial systems that year:
% of Budget to Judicial
Top States
Utah

? 5.0%
Washington 4.0
Connecticut 3.0
Kentucky 3.0
West Virginia 2.8
Bottom
Tennessee

?? ???.05%
South Carolina 0.3
Texas 0.4
Ohio 0.4
Arkansas 0.5
Notables
California
? ?2.5%
New York 1.5
Florida 0.6

Shallow Pockets

Francisco R. Angones, president of the Florida Bar, will push for 2008 to be the year the state’s court system finally gets more than .7% of the state’s budget: “This is the key challenge for our state this year —?a reasonably funded judicial system.”

Currently, clerks, assistants and other judicial workers earn less than their counterparts in the state’s executive and legislative branches, which Angones says makes it hard to retain good employees. He adds that state judges don’t get health insurance; state Supreme Court justices haven’t had a cost-of-living pay increase in four years. “As the third branch of government, we are almost like beggars in our system,” he says.