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AIA releases Architect’s Guide to Business Continuity as firms struggle to adjust to new reality

Surviving an Anthropogenic Hazard 101

AIA releases Architect’s Guide to Business Continuity as firms struggle to adjust to new reality

As architecture and design firms navigated the coronavirus pandemic, many offices have emptied out entirely. (Annie Spratt/Unsplash)

To put it lightly, the COVID-19 pandemic has precipitated more than just a passing hiccup in the daily business operations of architecture firms large and small. While the long-term implications of the deadly viral outbreak on the business of designing buildings have yet to be fully grasped, the immediate fallout has been nothing short of rollercoaster-like.

Yet for most practices, things are very much businesses as usual albeit with major alterations, particularly with regard to workflow and staffing. To help firms more smoothly navigate these turbulent and unpredictable times, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has released a comprehensive Architect’s Guide to Business Continuity.

Geared to help guide firms through a wide range of “adverse business conditions” including for example, global pandemics, the 50-plus-page guide provides insight into how to broach a variety of crucial areas—staff management, supply chains, technology, stakeholders, all-important reputation—with minimal disruption.

The guide identifies, elaborates on, and offers guidance on how to respond to a range of potentially business-disrupting hazards including natural ones (sea-level rise, wildfires, drought, and other natural phenomena, many of them exacerbated by climate change) as well as anthropogenic hazards and system failures (cyber attacks, terrorism, arson, supply chain disruption, civil unrest, utility interrupt, pandemics, etc).

“Firms across the country are facing pressures from all sides—from transitioning offices to teleworking models, to work stoppages, to repositioning their businesses to adapt to changing client needs,” said AIA executive vice president/chief executive officer Robert Ivy, FAIA, in a press statement. “This guide is meant to help firms be nimble during any kind of disruption, whether environmental or manmade. It also should support them in making informed decisions during economic uncertainties so they can be best poised to address the future.”

Per a March 23 survey conducted by the AIA, 50 percent of firms polled reported 50 percent fewer projects compared to their expectations entering the month. Eighty-three percent of firms anticipated a decline in revenue for the month—that figure jumps to 94 percent when considering revenue declines in April. The survey also found major shifts in staffing operations with 48 percent reporting—as of March 23—that all employees entire, or almost all employees, were working remotely. Thirty-one percent of firms reported that only some staff had gone into remote work mode. Fifteen percent reported that some staff members were unable to work at all.

The AIA is providing a wide range of resources and helpful information to its members during the coronavirus pandemic across a range of areas. In addition to the operations-minded Architect’s Guide to Business Continuity, one notable resource headed by a special AIA task force is a Preparedness Assessment Tool meant to be used to evaluate potential alternative care sites for the treatment and isolation of COVID-19 patients. A collaborative database and complementary COVID19 ArchMap was launched so that architects, designers, engineers, and others can more easily share and compare best practices when establishing alternative care sites.

Every Friday, AN’s own Coronavirus Column, penned by managing editor Jack Balderrama Morley, addresses a range of topics on how the pandemic is impacting both the profession of architecture and the built environment as a whole.