Journey of an Architect is a blog started by Tim Ung to document his journey to design 30 projects by the age of 30 (May 2020). His posts focus on his design process, thoughts, struggles, and successes throughout his journey.

5 Potential Benefits of Research in Architecture firms

5 Potential Benefits of Research in Architecture firms

If we, as Architects, step back and take a moment to view our colleagues and clients in other professions such as healthcare, engineering, and technology, we’ll see that there is a plethora of funding opportunities for them. However, Architects always encounter issues that require time and resources dedicated to researching solutions. In most cases, architecture firms will avoid spending time on research ventures because they have limited funding and don’t see a benefit for their business.

So how are architecture firms that are currently pursuing research benefitting and funding their ventures?

1. Research and Development Tax Credits

One of the ways that an architecture firm can start implementing a research culture into their practice is by using the research and development (R&D) tax credit as a way of supporting their investigations. In particular, this tax credit requires the firm to work on an evolutionary project and invests their time and resources to develop these ideas. In order to qualify for this tax credit, the research must meet these four criteria:

1.    Be technological in nature and integrates hard science

2.    Create new or improved level of functionality, reliability, or durability

3.    Eliminate some uncertainty that was present at the start of the research project

4.    Involve experimentation

As long as your research projects meet these four criteria, it will qualify for the R&D tax credits. Any architecture firm that pursues this tax credit will have to be very meticulous in documenting their time in relation to the research that was being conducted. This will help the firm avoid audits and investigations into the firm’s research efforts by the Internal Revenue Service.

Learn more about the R&D tax credit in Architect Magazine’s article or the Internal Revenue Service's R&D tax credit page.

2. Becoming an expert within a niche

While there are many architecture firms with mission statements that include phrases such as “we pursue innovation within every project” or “we are the leaders in healthcare design”, only a few of those firms have experts leading those particular practice areas. However, in today’s information based society where everyone’s first step is to conduct a thorough Google search of companies, projects, and statistics, it’s easier than ever to find architecture firms that are at the forefront of their niche.

Why do people see these firms as the experts in their niche?

Architecture firms who are highly sought after for healthcare, universities, offices, etc. have produced a database of projects and research that are compiled into brochures, white papers or scholarly articles and shared with the public. As an architecture firm continues to develop this database of brochures and articles, people will eventually find and share them with their friends. This eventually spreads the company’s brand, mission, and values with the world and the firm will gain traction as experts in their particular niche.

3. Speaking engagements

As architecture firm establishes itself within a niche and their research results in white paper and scholarly articles, the firm will have the opportunity to speak at conferences, events, and universities. This will spread the company’s brand and mission statement to a wider audience and showcase the firm’s authority within their particular niche.

Being a speaker at conferences, events, and universities can lead to many project opportunities down the road with other firms or new clients. If someone in the audience has been searching for an expert to be a consultant on their project or a client needed an architect with an expertise in their particular project’s programs, they’ll most likely reach out to the architecture firm who has established themselves as experts in their field.

4. Strengthening the firm’s marketing materials

One of the most important departments in any architecture firm is marketing because it helps the company get their mission statement and supporting portfolio of work in front of potential clients. In many cases, architecture firms rely on traditional methods of marketing such as word of mouth, advertisements in print materials, or mailers to get their company in front of prospective clients. However, we’re now in a world where everyone has access to any information that they’re searching for right at the tips of their fingers.

By pursuing research and creating brochures that summarize findings, provides examples of how the firm integrated their research in some of their projects, and a conclusion describing the results of the research and the final project, the firm will eventually develop a large database that will appear in online search results. In fact, some research articles or brochures will be shared by people and the firm’s presence will grow around the world.

5. Creating a collaborative and innovative work culture

The most important benefit of pursuing R&D at an architecture firm is the mindset and culture that forms among colleagues. By creating an environment that fosters high level questions and investigations, everyone at the firm will eventually find topics that they’re most passionate about. Eventually, the firm will investigate new software or research topics in an emerging societal trend, which will lead to innovations in that particular niche.

Conclusion

In the past, it was difficult for architecture firms to see the economic benefits of pursuing research within the company. Owners and principals at these architecture firms would look at the immediate economic value of research and realize that the company would have to invest their time and resources to pursue any research project.

However, architecture firms who are integrate research in their company today are seeing its benefits in tax credits, establishing themselves as an expert in their niche, speaking engagements at conferences, strengthening their brand and marketing materials, and an evolutionary work environment at their firm.

Soon integrating research into an architecture firm will no longer be an option for a successful company.


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