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Impact of Recession on Design Firms Hard to Measure
In the last two years, countless A/E firm have perished in the deep recession, experts agree
“I don’t think that anyone tracks this information systematically,”
Given the often-quoted estimate pointing to the existence of more than 20,000 architecture firms in the U.S. (The AIA lists 18,500 member-owned architecture firms in its membership, but the number of firms is certainly higher, taking into account those not affiliated with the AIA), that would mean that up to 2,200 firms may have disappeared into thin air.
The American Council of Engineering Companies— which lists more than 5,300 firms among its membership— has no concrete answer either.
“Firms have downsized (reduced staff) in certain areas, particularly where there was a large developer market tied to residential construction growth. But we have no data on closings,” says Jeffrey Beard, ACEC vice president and director of the Institute for Business Management.
Just a few examples of firm closings in the last two years:
Cubellis, a large architecture firm in Boston, closed in December.
Lucien Lagrange Architects Ltd. in Chicago filed for bankruptcy in July.
Rink Design Partnership Inc. in Jacksonville, FL, started a process of winding down in April.
Grad Associates in Newark, NJ, a 104-year-old firm responsible for shaping part of the New York and Newark skylines, shuttered its doors in February.
CMX Inc. in Manalapan, NJ, a multi-disciplined engineering and consulting firm, announced its closing in April, selling part of its assets to Birdsall Services Group (BSG, Sea Girt, NJ). At one time CMX employed more than 1,000 people, evidence that bigger firms also fall. CMX also ranked 156 on The Zweig Letter 2009 Hot Firm List.
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