Australian and New Zealand architects and landscape architects predict a busy 2022 despite challenges

Architects, landscape architects and peak industry body leaders tell Lindy Johnson Creative that they predict “stacks and stacks” of work in 2022 despite supply chain squeezes, labour market challenges and ongoing disruption from the pandemic. 

COVID challenges are proving to be a source of work — in retrofitting for improved building ventilation and developing flexible work and education spaces — while demand for climate-adaptive architecture is huge.

Supply chain disruptions, labour market shortages and rising costs

The RBA Governor Philip Lowe noted on 5 February that it costs 7.5% more to build a new dwelling than it did 12 months ago. 

One reason is that COVID-related supply chain issues are pushing up the price of building materials.

“We probably haven’t seen the full extent of what those building material shortages are going to be,” says Angelina Pillai, CEO at the Association of Consulting Architects (ACA). “However, we’re already experiencing significant price hikes and delays that will have flow-on impacts on projects, programs and budgets.”

Architectural practices are predicting the need to plan for further disruptions. Shaun Carter, the Principal Architect at Sydney-based Carter Williamson Architects, says that his building collaborators have been procuring in-demand materials far in advance. 

“One of our builders, for example, heard that timber was going to be in short supply. He bought every stick of timber required for the job and had it delivered from his reliable supplier.”


Shaun Carter, Principal Architect, Carter Williamson. Photo: Brett Boardman.

Meanwhile, 85% of businesses are being affected by skilled and unskilled labour shortages, with the civil construction industry taking a particular hit, the Australian Financial Review recently reported.

“Traditionally on a building site, we would see lots of students and skilled foreign workers,” Carter says. Two years of hard borders mean those workers just aren’t there.

“We’re not importing talent at the moment,” ACA CEO Pillai says. “We’re also seeing that people coming out of architecture school [in Australia] are going into alternate professions, which is possibly a reflection of some of the other challenges the architecture profession is facing: lots of overtime and unpaid labour.”

Across the Tasman, Catherine Solari, from Solari Architects in Wellington, describes similar issues.

“We’ve got a housing crisis, a labour shortage and materials and shipping issues,” Solari says. “And on top of that, there is mounting pressure with finances. Banks are clamping down on the lending criteria for developers and first-time homebuyers.”

She observes that the pandemic is also exacerbating long-term problems.

Claire Martin, President of the Australian Institute for Landscape Architects (AILA), agrees. COVID highlighted existing inequities,” Martin says, “But the recovery could be a game-changer.” How so?

JDA Co. project Shop Row, Woolloongabba, Brisbane. Photo: Scott Burrows.

Living with the virus is an opportunity  

COVID is here to stay. Architects and landscape architects are playing a crucial role in getting people safely back to the office, the campus and the city.

“[The pandemic] is really flagging the importance of investing in social infrastructure,” Martin says. Hospitals, aged care facilities, education buildings and civic spaces are getting a boost.

“Buildings weren’t designed for COVID,” ACA CEO Pillai says. “Redesigning needs to take place.” She flags retrofitting to improve ventilation as one key growth area. 

Nathalie Ward and John Ilett are Directors of urban design, landscape and architecture practice LatStudios. They also predict continued investment in COVID-safe renewal projects in the form of high-quality open spaces. 

“Universities are building lots of outdoor learning spaces and outdoor recreation spaces,” Ward says. “They’re trying to attract new students and retain workers.”

AILA head Claire Martin agrees. “It’s been a big disruption in education.” 

Their clients are trialing hybrid work models, with activities shifting between online, on-site, local and international.

Time spent at home during the pandemic will likely continue to boost demand for residential projects, Shaun Carter anticipates. “We all sat and stared at our own walls for far too long. Everyone’s said, ‘my home could be so much more’.”

In a similar vein, sea changes seem to be increasingly common. 

“In Brisbane, we’re seeing a lot of people who are moving up from Melbourne and Sydney,” says James Davidson, Director of JDA Co. (a practice specialising in climate-adaptive architecture). “People are really concerned about the storms and hail we get up here.” 

JDA Co. Director James Davidson. Photo: Jason Starr.

Climate-responsive practice is crucial 

Davidson thinks the demand for climate-adaptive architecture won’t slow down any time soon. 

“People are realising the risk,” says Davidson. “[Governments] are setting up natural peril and hazard teams to deal with the heat stress, storm tides, cyclones, flooding and bushfires that they know will affect their communities in the future.”

His observations are echoed by other practices. 

“Of course, one of the biggest issues we’re facing is climate change,” LatStudio’s Ward says. “It’s increasingly prominent in the media, and that much-needed attention is affecting the projects that we’re involved in. We’re doing a lot of work around visual impact assessment for wind farms and solar power.”

With buildings generating nearly 40% of global carbon emissions annually, it’s clear that sustainable design is crucial. 

“We need to think beyond a narrow cycle of growth,” says AILA head Martin. Instead, she stresses the need for long-term design strategies to address the climate crisis.

Respectful, meaningful work with First Nations people

The upcoming federal election is putting a spotlight on the Uluru Statement from the Heart — the landmark call for a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution. Meanwhile, Treaty negotiations with Traditional Owners continue in Victoria, Queensland, the ACT and the NT. 

“These Treaty conversations are really important,” Martin says. 

LatStudios agrees. “More and more, we’re trying to help our clients understand the importance of engaging properly with Traditional Owners to build authentic and respectful projects on Country,” Ward says. 

While working on the new Hervey Bay Esplanade master plan, LatStudios prioritised meaningful consultation with the Traditional Owners of the land, the Butchulla People.

“We spent time up at Hervey Bay with the Butchulla People, travelling around the waterfront together and really seeing what the important sites were,” Ilett says. From this process, he notes that working with, not just on Country, is crucial.

Increased recognition of Indigenous sovereignty will continue to profoundly shape the work of built environment professionals in the year ahead. 

“This is an opportunity and a responsibility in Australia,” Ward says. “We are working in a unique cultural context.”

Claire Martin.

Looking towards a busy 2022

Everyone is predicting a jam-packed year for architects and landscape architects in Australia and New Zealand.

“Our jobs board has never been busier,” says Martin.

The LatStudios team is similarly cheerful. “It’s looking as though, from our perspective, while the economy did take a nosedive, the work will still keep coming in the door,” Ilett says.

“Where there is constraint, the architectural profession finds opportunity,” Carter says.

“There is a lot of demand,” says Solari from her Wellington office. “We’re aiming to deliver within the best possible time frames while being mindful of shifting realities.”

Who should take on the risk of those changing circumstances? Pillai suggests an area of improvement for architects in the year ahead: “Fees, fees, fees. How can practices set realistic and profitable fees?”

All in all, though, there’s cause for optimism. 

“Our sector is in a good position to ride out the disruptions,” JDA Co.’s Davidson says. “I have a very positive mindset.”

Bring it on!


Main image and above: Bayrun Rockstar, Carter Williamson. Photo: Tom Ferguson.

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