Oct 17, 201103:58 PMPoint of View
Protestors in New York CityBuilding and infrastructure projects have an unusually long time frame, the largest and most complicated projects involving multiple years in the design process and then, again, multiple years in the construction phase. And as for the future health of the architecture and construction industries, it’s as important to be looking toward long-term future growth, as it is to be looking toward short term, more immediate growth. When asked specifically about the languishing state of these industries and potential for future growth, the panel’s responses were varied. Geanakoplos was optimistic, speaking to potential growth in residential building, “there have hardly been any new houses built in the last four years…plus there are a lot of young people coming of house-owning age, so if you just look demographically at what should be happening now, we should be starting a new housing boom.” He went on, “the trouble is that housing prices are still being held so low…but all the elements are there for a renaissance, tremendous resurgence in housing construction…we’ve hardly ever had so few houses built over a four year period.” Shiller had a more neutral outlook, “Housing booms historically are very rare on a national scale…I’m not saying for sure…but we shouldn’t have the idea that the next boom is right around the corner.” He referenced the Japanese housing market that, starting in 1991, went downhill for 15 consecutive years. A member of the audience spoke about how modernizing and beautifying existing structures, especially with energy retrofitting devices, can create jobs while essentially paying for themselves in energy savings. Levin agreed that energy retrofitting can offer significant returns, however for very comprehensive renovations like the ones he’s overseen at Yale, that’s not always the case, at least not right away. William Nordhaus closed by reminding us that because construction expenditure accounts for only a small part of our economy, this issue will not make or break the future U.S. economy as a whole. Looking at one industry won’t solve the U.S.’s problems. I waited for a bottom up conversation about what individuals, companies, corporations are doing and could be doing to promote job creation and a more specific evaluation of the future of specific industries, especially industries like architecture and construction that often require years of pre-planning to secure future work. It would have been more comforting to focus optimistically on the near term, rather than the top-down, policy component. But the university’s willingness to engage with uncomfortable issues was admirable, and the conversation thought provoking at a macro level. One can’t help being reminded of the chronically unemployed, and the new job seekers graduating into a market that can’t absorb them, but perhaps the real value in this meeting was bringing an example of an enlightened academic presence in the national dialogue with a more comprehensive conversation. The Yale University panel discussion can be viewed here Kathryn Lenehan is a student in Yale School of Architecture post-professional master’s program. She received her Bachelor in Architecture from the University of Notre Dame. [i] Glancey, Jonathan. (November 16, 2008). “Frozen Skyline”. The Gaurdian. October 15, 2011. [ii] Hughes, C.J. (December 29, 2008). “Layoffs Sweep Architecture Profession as Economy Worsens” Architectural Record. October 14, 2011. [iii] Tahmincioglu, Eve. (Dec. 27, 2009). “9 Hardest Hit Jobs of 2009”. NBC Miami. October 15, 2010.