HAPPY NEW YEAR! 2012 was a great year here at the BUILD World Headquarters. Dozens of great opportunities came through the door and we’ve got an office full of projects that we’re genuinely proud of. Along with all of the hard work, interviews, lectures and general busyness, comes a lot of epiphanies, insights and lessons. Here are our top five reflections from 2012:

On the economy
There’s plenty of work out there — it just takes a different skill set to access it in the new economy. Despite the challenges our industry continues to face, there are significant niches where the market is not only alive and well, it’s thriving. Having completed a large tenant improvement for internet startup CreativeLIVE here in Seattle, we’re tagging along for their San Francisco operation next. Also stay tuned for a new space we’re creating for Society Consulting, which kicked into construction last week. We’ve learned that the new commercial economy requires the design team to be scrappy, resourceful, and nimble. The projects typically involve older, existing spaces and a successful result depends heavily on working with what is already there. There’s a wealth of projects available to architects who can rethink tradition models of commercial interiors and put their design skills on the work environments of the future.

On sustainability
With the abundant talk around being ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ out there, it’s become more important than ever for architects and builders to separate the ‘talk’ from the actual solutions. After dozens of realized projects, we’ve found that updating older houses is one of the most successful models of a sustainable built environment. Over the last several years, we set our sights on the mid-century modern residences that are all turning 60-ish years old; we found that nothing is more sustainable than giving an existing home another 50 years of life. In 2012 we developed a residential catalog of strategies for preserving what is already there, and adding the amenities required of a 21st century lifestyle. The information is thriving on the internet and we look forward to applying more of these strategies in 2013.

On promotion
Social media is not a fad; it is the new method of promoting one’s business and keeping a steady flow of work in the pipeline. While we’ve found that print media is still a powerful venue to promote one’s work, digital social media offers ten-fold the possibilities (in a fraction of the time). With social media, design blogs, and meta-sites, there are so many ways to promote work digitally, that it’s nearly impossible  to keep up with all of them (but it’s negligent to ignore any of them). If you ask us, the new paradigm of promotion is about sharing, taking risks, and creating new communities; and it’s exhilarating.

On extra-curricular activity
Applying our passion and expertise to a cause outside of the day-to-day business has become an essential ingredient to our work and to our lifestyles. We’re big fans of ARCADE Magazine and we’re proud to be part of the community working to make it exceptional. Each of the quarterly issues includes an interview that BUILD conducts with someone working to make the built-environment extraordinary. From time to time, you might also see us behind the bar at ARCADE’s awesome parties. In addition to sharing ideas and connecting the design community, ARCADE has established a smart, talented and fun community of like-minded individuals. We highly recommend that anyone in the design and construction industry put in some extra-curricular time to help foster a community that you enjoy.

On studying
In 2012, we set our sights on the challenge of a Case Study House. We wanted to pick apart, analyze, and explore the possibility of a repeatable, predictable, modern design to tackle all of the variables in today’s complicated built-environment. We did all of that and then some, and the result was completed in late November. We learned a tremendous amount from the CSH, most importantly that it’s important to study your projects, find patterns and learn what’s worth repeating. Case Study House #2 is in the works and we’re looking forward to applying the CSH tools to our 2013 projects.

It would be difficult to think of our 2012 reflections without pairing them with a top 5 projections for 2013, so here goes:

Architecture will become more complicated; it will, more than ever, evolve into a process of layering over existing circumstances and conditions. It’s thrilling to us, thinking that the future of architecture will inevitably involve adding layers on top of older architectures, forming an archeology of society.

The age of the ‘starchitect’ is over. Maybe the New York Times Fashion & Style Magazine needs a handful of star architects to constantly hold up on a pedestal, but most of us know that it is extraordinary teams of owners, architects, consultants, and trades that make a project great. It is an illusion to think that a project as complex as architecture in the modern world is the sole brainchild and undertaking of one individual.

Fashion will take a backseat to sensibility. We like fashion, really we do. We like fashionable clothes, food, drinks and anything else that doesn’t need to stand the test of 50+ years. If the great recession taught us anything, it’s that architecture, more than ever, needs to have a timeless sensibility about it.

Social media will continue to evolve in ways that us architects can’t even begin to predict (we’re just not wired that way). But the social media of today is the stepping stone to the social media of the future, and you want to be well poised to jump to the next stone. Stay flexible, agile and most of all, open minded.

Extraordinary projects are the result of extraordinary clients. In a world ever more saturated with disposable, mindless, cookie-cutter design, this couldn’t be more important. It is the design-minded home owners, business owners, patrons and clients of 2013 who will be the greatest champions of the architecture profession and we’re looking forward to working with them.

Virtual martinis all around and cheers from team BUILD