Architectural leaders share their outlook for the Triangle

Architectural leaders share their outlook for the Triangle

Writer: Joey Garrand

4 min read June 2021 — Construction spending in the United States is pushing all-time highs, with the most recent data showing total construction spending exceeding $1.5 trillion. As expected in the nation’s second-fastest-growing large metro, construction activity is bustling. Of course, construction activity and predictability going forward isn’t equal across all sectors. Here is what local architectural leaders told Invest: with regard to their outlook for the construction industry across various sectors in the Triangle.

Terence McCabe, Managing Principal – North Carolina, EYP

During the height of the pandemic things slowed but never stopped, so, at this point, we’re only going to get busier. On the healthcare side, I really see a lot of demand and a lot of institutions poised to satisfy that demand. On the higher ed side, I see a slow return. As vaccinations are rolling out more and more and with a loosening of restrictions, I see students returning to campus and higher education projects slowly picking up.

I think we’re going to see a hybrid model as things come back. Previously, everything was in person. Now, what everyone is realizing is that there is an efficiency to be gained through virtual meetings. But, are virtual meetings the right platform for all meetings? No. So, right now, we’re taking a look at it and saying: when it’s the right occasion to meet virtually, we will meet virtually; when it’s the right occasion to meet in person, we will do that. I see a balance emerging on this issue.


Steve HeplerSteve Hepler, Raleigh Office Leader, LS3P

Our projection is a robust one, particularly in Raleigh. We’re fortunate to be here in the Southeast as some firms are struggling up North. Going forward, sustainability is always going to be at the forefront of what we do, and it’s not as hard to achieve anymore. We’ve been part of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program from our inception, and we incorporate strategies for sustainability in all of our designs. Even if projects do not go through the LEED process, our clients insist on including sustainable, programmatic elements. It’s second nature. Other programs such as WELL are really good at addressing health and well-being for the people who will inhabit a building. Green Globes is another alternative to LEED. It’s not quite as intense in terms of requirements but the same sustainable principles are involved.


Scott O'BrienScott O’ Brien, Principal, Director of Chapel Hill Office, Lord Aeck Sargent

A lot will depend on what the universities are willing and able to do over the coming months, both with regard to the bond or other funding opportunities at the state level, as well as private institutions and their comfort level with pursuing capital work. That is the first step for a service provider like us. We must track the funding and then pursue the projects from there. We are broadly and cautiously optimistic on the higher education front. For the developer-led work, things have looked good and continue to look solid in the months ahead.


John AtkinsJohn Atkins, Chairman & CEO, O’Brien Atkins Associates, PA

If you are in the life sciences sector, where we have a lot of experience developing projects, we are seeing an active market. We are seeing several large construction companies come into the marketplace. They would not be coming if there was not a market here for them. Plus, it keeps things competitive. The state of North Carolina is actually in better shape than one might have expected with COVID. It could get a windfall out of the stimulus package. There’s also the possibility of the state going to some bond referendum, whether it be for K-12 schools or community colleges, possibly higher education. If you look at the construction marketplace in general — this is applicable to architects, engineers, construction — close to a third of what we do in this market is publicly funded. If you take away those public funds, you cut the marketplace by a third, which has a ripple effect and impacts all the players. We anticipate we will have more clarity in July 2021.

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