Leading Orlando Architects: Partnerships, Communication Key in Overcoming Today’s Supply Chain, Talent Challenges
By Michael A. Monahan, president, Moxē Integrated Marketing

Builder's Breakfast Panelists

“We’re just trying to get the deal to pencil,” said Evan Bourff, AIA, principal at dwell design studio, as he described some of the challenges architects face today in an environment fraught with challenges ranging from supply chain and talent acquisition issues to

increasing interest rates and the fear of an upcoming recession.

Bourff spoke among a group of leading Central Florida architects, including Mike Chatham, AIA, president – HHCP Architects, David Leyte-Vidal, project manager – RLF Engineering and Architecture and Ben Hooley, director – multifamily – Scott + Cormia. Jay Lovell, director of design and construction at FaulkBuilt moderated the panel, at the June 29 Builders’ Breakfast a program of the Central Florida Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors.

Chatham added that supply chain issues are creating challenges to complete projects on time. “Timeframes for projects seem to be extending. Everything’s taking longer,” he said. “And unfortunately, a lot of the input that we get on supply chain issues comes to us late in the process, and it has a huge impact on our services.”

He said the biggest thing that general contractors and suppliers can do to help ease the supply chain burden is to share information up front about where the shortages are, as it eliminates a lot of work on the back end if architects can get that information early.

“If we know there are certain products that we can’t get, we can design around that, which I think helps everybody,” Chatham said.

Leyte-Vidal stressed the importance of communication and partnership.

“We’ve always seen our contractors as themselves trade partners,” which he said was more relevant now than ever. “A courtesy call doesn’t hurt. We’re all busy, but sometimes a five-minute call will help determine the outcome of a particular decision on a project.”

Chatham pointed HHCP’s work on Orlando’s planned Pulse Museum project, as an example.

“Initially, we were conceiving that project as a steel structure. (But) with all the, the cost pressure on the project, we (started) looking at concrete because of the reduced amount of steel in it.”

He said it can be tricky, though, because he’s planning a building that includes materials with no visibility on where future material prices may land when they actually need those materials to build the project.

“It’s kind of a leap of faith,” he said.

He then pivoted to talent acquisition among his list of supply chain constraints.

“Our biggest supply chain issue is (finding a) talented architect. “It’s just like the problem of getting materials. We’re having the same issues locating quality design staff to help us with what we’re doing.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook, the industry will see about 9,400 openings for architects each year, on average, between 2020 and 2030.

“Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire,” according to BLS. According to the guidebook, the median annual wage for architects was $80,180, as of May 2021.

The next Builders’ Breakfast will be on July 7 at ABC Central Florida’s office and will feature Port Canaveral Port Authority Commissioner Wayne Justice, who will provide members with a Space Coast update.

(pictured above, from l to r): Jay Lovell, director of design and construction at FaulkBuilt, Mike Chatham, AIA, president – HHCP Architects, David Leyte-Vidal, project manager – RLF Engineering and Architecture, Ben Hooley, director – multifamily – Scott + Cormia and Evan Bourff, AIA, principal at dwell design studio, discuss challenges facing architects at a recent Builders’ Breakfast, presented by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Central Florida.