Global Carbon Emissions Rise to Record Levels

Posted: December 5th, 2011 | Author: Jonathan Bahe | Filed under: Global practice, Leadership, Sustainability | Tags: | 25 Comments »

A new report out this weekend from the Global Carbon Project paints a rather depressing picture of the state of our planet - we (homo sapiens) continue to increase the amount of carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere. And the rate of increase continues to grow.

The report - using data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Earth Systems Research Laboratory and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography - indicates that atmospheric CO2 emissions reached 389.6 ppm in 2010, a 39% increase since the start of the Industrial Revolution, and the highest in at least the last 800,000 years.

Global Warming - Coal

The largest contribution to climate change is not cow farts, but the burning of fossil fuels - hopefully no surprise to anyone reading this. Unfortunately, on this front, more bad news. CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels (namely coal, petroleum, and natural gas) increased by 5.9% in 2010 - the highest levels in human history and  49% higher than in 1990 (the reference year for the Kyoto Protocol). Coal burning was responsible for 52% of this growth.

A New York Times article highlighting the research has a quote from Glen P. Peters, one of the leaders of the team from the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo which produced the study which sums it up best. He says, “Each year that emissions go up, there’s another year of negotiations, another year of indecision.”

The bad news is that the global A/E/C industry is a significant part of the problem. The good news is, we can also be a part of the solution. This is an important moment in the history of our profession and our planet. No one lays this out better than Ed Mazria and Architecture2030. Commitment to the 2030 Challenge is the first step. Transforming your practice is the critical element - for survival’s sake.

Tuition Tuesday - Tuition Continues to Rise

Posted: November 1st, 2011 | Author: Jonathan Bahe | Filed under: Economy, Education | Tags: , | No Comments »

Some new data released last week by the College Board shows that tuition and fees at both public and private 4-year institutions. A few highlights - or low points - from their research:

  • In-state tuition and fees at public four-year institutions averages $8,244 in 2011-12, 8.3% higher than in 2010-11. When you include room and board, this number goes up to $17,131, an increase of 6.0%
  • Out of state tuition and fees averages $20,770/year, up 5.7% from 2010-11. Including room and board, total charges are $29,657, up 5.2% from 2010-11.
  • Tuition & fees at private, four-year colleges and universities averages $28,500 in 2011-12, up 4.5% from 2010-11. Average charges including room and board are $38,589, up 4.4%.
  • While the average increase at public institutions is 8.3% for in-state students, and 5.7% for out-of-state students, 20% of students are attending schools where the cost of attendance rose more than 12%.

It is no wonder that total outstanding student debt has now passed $1 trillion, surpassing even the credit card debt in the US - and it’s rising. The Education Department announced that in September, the student loan rate had risen to 8.8 percent, which apple only to the first two years students are required to make a payment.

The research from the College Board also points out the dilemmas that administration at these colleges and universities wrestle with before raising tuition - declining support at public institutions, and financial aid covering less of the overall cost.

  • In 2011-12, full-time undergraduates at public, four-year institutions received an average of $5,750 in financial aid and federal tax benefits.
  • Full-time undergraduates at private, four-year institutions received an average of $15,530 in financial aid.
  • The average cost of attendance after subtracting aid has outpaced inflation an average rate of 1.4%/year over the last 5 years.
  • State funding per FTE student is 23% lower in 2010-11 than it was 10 years ago.

The cost of education remains a significant challenge for practices as they recruit, retain, and promote staff. Here at the Design Futures Council, we are finalizing our 2011-12 Tuition Research, looking at the cost of an architectural education in the US. Look for that in the coming weeks. In the meantime, the entire report from the College Board can be found at here.

7 Billion People - A Design Challenge

Posted: November 1st, 2011 | Author: Jonathan Bahe | Filed under: Global practice, Leadership, Uncategorized | No Comments »

A big day today in the history of our precious planet - it is estimated by the UN that today is the day we cross the threshold of 7 billion people alive on Earth. Admittedly the science is a little fuzzy on how exactly to count 7 billion people, but let’s assume that they are right, plus/minus even a month or two. The pace of population growth is quite remarkable.

In 1804, we reached 1 billion. It took until 1960 to get to 3 billion people. Then the population exploded. 4 billion in 1974; 5 billion in 1987; 6 billion in 1999 -which brings us to today.

The scale of humanity’s need for better design cannot be understated. Globally and locally, the services of much of the design community have not served most of the population. The good news is that there is a movement to shift these paradigms. The Rural Studio at Auburn University is a model many schools are now trying to replicate - students doing great design at little cost. Public Architecture continues to encourage the design professions to give a simple 1% of their time to pro bono design. Their former Executive Director, John Cary, is curating a discussion about the movement at . The recently launched is striving to partner IDEO’s approach of human-centered design with the people who need it the most. Project H Design is incorporating design into education.

7 billion people is clearly a milestone - and one with uncertain consequences as growth continues towards 9 billion by 2050 (slowing a little). The scale of solutions can and must vary - what matters is that the design community begins developing them more quickly and more responsibly.

Tuition Tuesday - Student Loan Debts & Past Due Rates Increasing

Posted: August 17th, 2011 | Author: Jonathan Bahe | Filed under: Best Practices, Compensation, Economy, Education, Leadership | Tags: | 4 Comments »

2 notable reports this week already regarding the impact that economic conditions are having on various types of credit (mortgages, credit cards, student loans, etc.), both from the Wall Street Journal and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The first, from the Real Time Economics blog, shows that while U.S. household debt has declined 8.64% since it’s peak in the 3rd quarter of 2008 to $11.42 trillion, student loan debt is up sharply, rising 25% over the same period. This increase from $440 billion to $550 billion might be reflective of more people going back to school in the hopes of increasing their skills and value in a difficult job market. The report doesn’t indicate the reason for the increase, however the drastic increase certainly will affect future spending and compensation expectations. The graphic from this report showing this change is below:

Student Loan ChangeMonday’s news was followed yesterday, by another report showing a steady climb in delinquency rates of student loans. The article says, “11.2% of students loans are more than 90 days past due”, and the delinquency rate steadily increasing. Credit cards are the only type of loan with higher delinquency rates, however those numbers have been declining for the last year.

Loan Delinquencies

We’ve set up an educational system - and an employment system - that requires students to take on incredible amounts of schooling, and in many cases the associated debt. It impacts the diversity of our profession and the economic condition of employees of every professional practice in the country.

The question for leaders of professional practices is simply this: Do you know the cost of education at the institutions you typically recruit from? If so, do you know the associated debt load or student loan payments made by graduates coming from that institution to your firm?

Once you know this information, the opportunity is to develop unique strategies for recruitment and retention that help minimize the pressure these individuals feel financially. As competition remains high for talented, committed employees, helping your youngest professionals and recent graduates can lead to significant increases in loyalty and retention. And that, is one of the best investments your practice can make in today’s economy.

A Shift from Managing to Navigating

Posted: August 15th, 2011 | Author: Jonathan Bahe | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Recently, Vineet Nayer, had a great post on Harvard Business Review discussing a shift from managers acting as the gatekeepers of information to navigators who use their experiences to steer the team through difficult situations and sort through information. Sounds pretty obvious right?

Nayer writes, “For the first time, perhaps, managers find themselves overshadowed by the net’s omnipresence in answering questions about the what and how. Their authority as information-providers is eroding quickly, putting to rest that once-key role. As executives adjust to that new reality, they are asking themselves what team members seek from them today.”


If your organization looks like the image at the left, you are likely already feeling the tremendous weight of continuing to protect information, holding down all of those people below from learning and growing. Seems rather obvious that organizations with these attitudes will be forced to change or no longer exist, but far too many exist within our industry.

Furthermore, when the author asked a group of young managers about their roles, they saw themselves as collaborators and mentors, rather than controllers and hoarders. Many professional practices, supported by policies and programs of national organizations like AIA and NCARB, have created paths with hurdles that must be earned, rather than creative means for accessing and sharing.

From the beginning of a young architect’s career, the focus is on counting hours with information that someone is giving you in the quest of learning everything possible to practice on your own - the goal of passing the ARE. While very few people could genuinely say that passing a series of exams encompasses everything an architect needs to know, it remains the standard all are held to. In the process, we lose hundreds (and perhaps thousands) of young architects each year who choose to work for “alternative practices” or leave the discipline all together in search of a career path or organizations filled with navigators, rather than gatekeepers.

people-as-connected-networks1These attitudes continue throughout all levels of practice - in fact we often see them at the most senior levels of organizations. Clearly, leaders of the most successful organizations are sharing information with their leadership teams and partners, and with their entire staff. Charting a clear course for the future, acknowledging that storms will arise, fostering attitudes of adaption and growth, and  addressing limiting beliefs are keys to future success. What does your organization look like if your “structure” was more like the organization at left, rather than the traditional pyramid above?

This transformation is happening around us, driven largely by technology and imbedded generational differences. As we embrace new technology platforms for sharing knowledge, we must too address cultural issues of sharing and managing - shifting from control to collaboration. Between partners, between staff, between organizations, and between the multitude of stakeholders involved with projects. How can we navigate through the current storm and conflicts to smoother sailing tomorrow?

The World Loses a Giant - And Now It’s Up To Us

Posted: August 9th, 2011 | Author: Jonathan Bahe | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Late yesterday, our industry, and indeed our nation, was struck by the news that Ray Anderson, founder and chairman of Interface, had passed away after a 20-month battle with cancer. Most know Ray’s story of enlightenment and leadership, steering Interface on their journey towards “Mission Zero”. For those who haven’t, or for a great history of the journey Ray inspired, visit Interface here to learn more.

Ray was an inspirational partner with the Design Futures Council since our founding, and involved in our very first Leadership Summit on Sustainable Design in 2001. A Senior Fellow of the DFC, Ray was a gentle leader who connected personally with thousands of people as he shared his story and challenged each of us to reach deeper within ourselves and our organizations to shape a new future.

In a speech at last year’s Leadership Summit on Sustainable Design, Ray said:

“Our higher calling, that takes the breath away, is to shift the paradigm, beginning in our own minds and wherever we are. The power of a question, is my last question for you. Will we, the larger, collective we, shift paradigms? And do it in time? And truly embrace this new view of reality? That is the question of our era. And the hell of it is, it’s up to you and me.”

It is indeed now up to us to strive to fulfill Ray’s vision for a world driven not by business as usual, but by doing what is best for our planet and future generations. A big challenge, but as Ray often said, “If anyone can do it, everyone can do it.” And we must.

Tuition Tuesday - Debt, Compensation, and an Uncertain Future

Posted: June 21st, 2011 | Author: Jonathan Bahe | Filed under: Compensation, Education, Leadership, Uncategorized | Tags: | 21 Comments »

Third post in this multi-part series on increasing college tuition, with a special emphasis of course on the impact on the design professions. Today’s topic is about the growing disconnect between tuition and salary.

The statement that “there is no money to be made in architecture or design” has long been shared with students, and unfortunately in many cases accepted as fact. For many years, issues of unpaid and underpaid internships caused significant hardship within the profession. Over the last 15 years however, the profession has done an admirable job of nearly ridding itself of the practice - with some exceptions - and recognizing the contributions of young staff. In the most recent DesignIntelligence Compensation & Benefits survey, the mean annual salary for year 3 interns, just finishing IDP, was $44,750 plus a mean bonus of 2.7%. A big jump from 1996 when DesignIntelligence reported a mean salary of $28,760. In fact this growth even beat inflation.

So the good news is, we are slowly making strides in what we pay recent graduates and interns. The not so good news, the cost of education is greatly exceeding these gains. According to the College Board, tuition and fees at public universities have surged over 130% over the last 20 years. At the same time, the maximum amount of government-subsidized loans that a student is eligible to receive for a four-year degree has remained $23,000 since 1992

Mean income has remained roughly the same since 1988, while tuition and fees has more than doubled. Source: CNN Money

Median income has remained roughly the same since 1988, while tuition and fees has more than doubled. Source: CNN Money

This post isn’t meant to argue that recent graduates and interns are underpaid - we can save that discussion for another time. However, what is increasingly apparent is the disservice to recent graduates who spend thousands of dollars to get college degrees, and then find themselves in a work force which doesn’t compensate accordingly. A push towards increasing the value and relevancy of the degree is necessary, and requires a joint effort between the academy and professional practices. Then perhaps the conversation can become more about value and less about cost. By recognizing value-in (tuition) and increasing value-out (relevancy), we can grow our profession in more sustainable ways, and support the next generation of leadership.

Tuition Tuesday - The Growing Burden of College Debt

Posted: June 15th, 2011 | Author: Jonathan Bahe | Filed under: Education, Leadership | Tags: , | 4 Comments »

Another post in the Tuition Tuesday series - this time on the ever-increasing debt loan on new graduates.

A recent New York Times article, highlights the problem facing recent graduates with bachelor’s degrees - an average of $24,000 in student loan debt. From 1993 to 2008, the percentage of graduates with debt increased from 50% to nearly two-thirds. In fact, for the first time, student loan debt is now larger than credit card debt, and is projected to top one trillion dollars in 2011.

And this is only for students with a 4-year undergraduate degree. For students with a professional degree in architecture, either a 5 year Bachelor of Architecture degree or a 2-3 year Master of Architecture degree, this debt load is likely to be considerably higher. Recent research from DesignIntelligence and the Design Futures Council on tuition and fees in accredited architecture programs begins to indicate how high this debt load might be. For undergraduates in a 5-year B.Arch program, in-state tuition and fees averages $19,454, and $25,725 for out-of-state students. Annually. Not including housing, medical expenses, books, studio supplies, or the host of other expenses associated with college. For M.Arch students, the numbers are quite similar - $19,186 for in-state, and $25,749 for out-of-state. These M.Arch programs range from 2 to 3 1/2 years, and are on-top of an existing bachelor’s degree, sometimes in architecture, sometimes in another discipline. It is important to note that at every institution, students receive varying degrees of financial assistance, either through grants funded by the federal or state government, or through institutional scholarships.

Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for College Access and Success writes in the New York Times article, “If you have a lot of people finishing or leaving school with a lot of debt, their choices may be very different than the generation before them. Things like buying a home, starting a family, starting a business, saving for their own kids’ education may not be options for people who are paying off a lot of student debt.”

The impact that the increasing strain of college debt has on a willingness of individuals to seek ownership in design practices can not be overstated. We are constraining the opportunities of both leadership and ownership transitions in practices at a time when the generational demographics indicate they are needed the most. This isn’t just an issue for the students of today, but for the owners of the firms of tomorrow.

Tuition Tuesdays - Addressing the rising cost of tuition

Posted: June 7th, 2011 | Author: Jonathan Bahe | Filed under: Education | Tags: , | No Comments »

For the next few Tuesdays, I’m planning to write a little about the impacts of rising tuition costs on emerging generations of students and young architects. This is a topic that seems to appear more frequently in newspapers, magazines, and online publications as well as a topic of conversation among architects, educators, students, and prospective students.

I and many others believe that if the architecture, design, engineering, and construction industry is to address the serious issues of diversity and talent shortages that we face, we must invest more fully in our education system.

So first, the scale of the problem. Recently, using data from the United States Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, I compiled data comparing the growth of college tuition and fees, median home prices, and the annual change in the consumer price index. When plotting this annual data from 1978-2009, the following picture results:

Tuition- Housing-CPI

College debts are an order of magnitude higher than just a few decades ago (and have risen more than three times as fast as the consumer price index).

Over the coming weeks, I will look at specific examples driving this problem, unique challenges we face, and what others are saying about the topic. I hope this spurs conversation and awareness as well as a willingness on the part of the profession to invest more fully in supporting schools across the country.

Leading Change in Cities

Posted: May 31st, 2011 | Author: Jonathan Bahe | Filed under: Best Practices, Leadership, Planning, Sustainability, Technology | Tags: , | No Comments »

This month’s GreenSource Magazine has a great interview with Jan Gehl, an architect and founding partner of Gehl Architects and a Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council. For much of his career, Jan and his team have focused on the development of human-scale strategies to improve cities. Working globally in cities like Copenhagen, Melbourne, Seattle, New York, and Sao Paulo, the firm’s work integrates itself with what Jan calls “the people scale” to better understand how a city’s inhabitants live, work, and play.

In the interview, Jan says, “While there are a lot of planners and architects looking after the airplane and rooftop scales, the treatment of the people scale has been very distant. It is as if nobody has really addressed making good urban habitats for homo sapiens.” As I travel the United States and increasingly the globe to work with clients and meet with thought leaders, I’m struck by how true this is. Many American cities have pockets of good urban space — walkable, pedestrian-scaled, for varied uses — and yet they are just small pockets in an increasingly bland landscape designed for everything but homo sapiens.

It seems strange to need to suggest that architects, interior designers, and urban designers should focus more on how people actually feel in the spaces they create — regardless of the scale at which they work. And yet, we seem to have lost this important ethos as a profession.