As clients ask for more customized solutions, M Moser contributes its the global perspective.
THIS ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED IN THE ‘Q’ – THE REGISTRY’S PRINT PUBLICATION – IN FEBRUARY OF 2017[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen he joined the M Moser Associates, Steve Lawler was tasked with accelerating the development of the firm’s design and construction approach of Integrated Project Delivery; employing collaborative Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) technologies in the US market. Now, nearly fours into the role, he reflects on the his and the firm’s growth and provides a perspective on the market and where it’s heading.
THE REGISTRY: Steve, how long have you been with M Moser, and what attracted you to the organization?
Steve Lawler: I have been with M Moser for nearly four years. The ability to start from a clean sheet of paper, hand select a team and build a new office for a 35 year old company changing the traditional design and delivery paradigm is what inspired me to join M Moser. As licensed architects and contractors, M Moser is the foremost global architecture practice with the capacity to provide end-to-end integrated, solutions for our clients. Harkening back to the origins of my profession, with the architect as leader and master builder, how could I say no?
TR: You have worked in the industry in the Bay Area for a while now and have seen several cycles come and go. What strikes you about this cycle?
SL: What surprises me most about our current cycle – after seeing a few of them come and go – is the sustainability of it. Instead of a rapid rise and fall where you see ‘irrational exuberance,’ this has been a long and steady climb. There has definitely been excitement and rapid growth, but it has been tempered with a sense of reality, a grounding that hasn’t been present in the past. The flip side of that is that it won’t likely bust in the same way as it has in the past. We are hearing from clients that 2017 will be a plateau year, and that they are looking at growth outside the Bay Area, but few are experiencing significant cut backs.
TR: As you have navigated through the industry over the last few decades, what has stayed the same, and what has changed?
SL: One of the biggest changes in our industry that I have seen has really come about over the past couple years. Sustainability has been a large part of our business for a while now, but the focus is shifting to include people – employees, residents, etc – in every design solution. Instead of just ensuring that our work protects the environment, we are working towards designing solutions that support the health and well-being of anyone who will use the space. What hasn’t changed, the flippant answer; our fees…
TR: If 2016 was a successful year for the industry, in general, how do you feel about 2017?
SL: I feel as though things will continue steadily forward.
TR: What concerns you about the year ahead, and conversely, where do you see opportunities to evolve?
SL: I am excited about our opportunities this year to expand and evolve our offerings and areas of expertise. One of the biggest areas where we are focusing time and energy is into incorporating wellness into all of our projects. We truly believe that looking after the health and wellness of employees in the workplace will drive the future success of organizations. We are committed to incorporating this into the solutions we deliver to our clients as part of our unique end-to-end delivery model. This evolution entails becoming a business strategy consultant and advocate for our clients’ business goals, guiding them beyond the physical design solution.
TR: What are some trends that you see evolving over the next 12 to 18 months from a client perspective that you have been observing in the recent past?
SL: We are seeing a movement away from what has become the classic “SF” look, popularized by technology companies in the area. Where once this was what everyone seemed to want, companies are beginning to move beyond the hip trend to really examine what will and will not work for them. We are seeing people ask for more customized solutions that will benefit their business and advance their goals.
As you look to your organization across the globe and clients that you serve locally and all over the world, are you seeing commonalities between cultures, companies and industries that are emerging in your work or do you feel like the world is still so vast that these things are not connecting quite yet?
One of the connections between global and local clients is the way more traditional organizations – banks or law firms – are choosing much more progressive designs for their workspaces. In the past this was a one way street with the more progressive design solutions developed in Asia coming to the US. Now we are seeing the reverse, too. Global companies are asking us to work with them in developing new workplace solutions based on the progressive approaches embraced locally, and then bringing them back to Asia. Because there are similar competitive environments and retention issues in both places, we have seen success in this model.
Over the next 12 to 18 months, are you projecting growth over what happened in 2016? Flat business, slowdown in business? Being on the front end of development, your organization would be able to identify some of these trends early on.
Since our opening 3 ½ years go we have seen rapid growth in our business and the local business climate. Now established and looking forward, we are projecting moderate growth; slowing, but still growing steadily for ourselves and our clients.
TR: Is there something that we are not asking that we should be asking?
SL: Similar to other businesses, how is the residential market and local cost climate affecting the ability of professional services firms (like architects) to draw talent to the area and how the availability of local talent, or lack thereof, is affecting your business and how are you addressing that?