Every so often, architects lapse into the futile discussion about the economics of our profession. What happened? We always ask. Spending a week last summer in the AIA’s archives, I satisfied my curiosity by aggregating data on firm revenues and profitability over the past 50 years. Sources from several organizations used varying methodologies to track average net profits over the decades. Analyzing their data revealed a clear trend that shows after 1960 we had a period of decline followed by volatility, which coincides with a series of legal, economic and policy shifts that impacted our profession. I shared this graphic recently at Envisioning Organization organized by Prof. Karen Lewis at OSU. Too much has changed in the industry for our profession to ever return to our pre 1960 net profits. Could it finally be time for us to reconsider our business model?
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