AIAVT Survey Results: COVID Impacts on Vermont Architects

By Sarah O Donnell + Catherine Lange, AIA


AIA vermont would like to thank the 60 individuals who took the time to complete the recent survey sent to members regarding business impacts of COVID-19 on Vermont architects. We asked that just one representative from each firm respond to keep results from skewing to reflect larger firms, but kept responses completely anonymous so that is hard to validate. Because we understand the impacts, strategies, and policies to be changing daily, we will likely send out another version of this survey in another month or two. We will analyze the differences to better understand longer term impacts on our members. Below, we will run through each question and the answers we’ve received to date, with the goal of keeping everyone informed on how we are faring as a community.



Questions 1+2: Firm Size and Project Location?


Nearly 40% of survey respondents are sole proprietors, and nearly 50% conduct business primarily in Vermont. This is relevant because we understand construction restrictions to vary greatly state-to-state, so a company with all projects in Vermont may feel the effects of the pandemic differently than someone with projects in surrounding states.


Question 3: Compared to the beginning of March, approximately what percentage of your projects are now on hold or significantly reduced?


Over 50% of respondents report that a quarter or fewer of their projects have gone on hold. This is promising news, and we hope this trend continues. By comparison, nearly 30% of respondents are in the opposite situation, having between 75-100% of projects on hold or significantly reduced.



Question 4: Compared to the beginning of March, approximately what percentage of your billable hours are now on hold or significantly reduced?


Question 4 is similar to question 3, but with slightly different implications. Fortunately, billable hours remain unchanged for over 1/3 of respondents. However, at the opposite end of the spectrum, just under 10% of respondents have seen a complete stall in billable hours. The majority of respondents fall somewhere in between with ~25-75% of billable hours having disappeared to date.  


Questions 5+6: Have you, or do you plan to lay off staff as a result of COVID-19? And, If you have laid off staff, how many FTE?


Positive news from the results here show over 75% of respondents have avoided lay-offs or salary reductions to date, whether through support from economic relief packages or ample workload. Over 20% of firms, however, have either reduced salaries or cut staff.


Note: AIA Vermont recently updated our jobs page of the website, which has expanded to facilitate employee sharing between firms to help avoid lay-offs, added a Miscellaneous Jobs section for sharing RFPs of small jobs, and other uses. 


Question 7: Have you applied (or in the process of applying) for federal relief loans? Please check all that apply.


The majority of Vermont architects have sought federal relief loans of some kind, whether PPP or EIDL. Those who replied “Other” in this section often clarified that they filed for unemployment or partial unemployment. We will work to keep our members informed of new developments with economic relief packages, as new information becomes available. 


Question 8: How can AIA Vermont best serve you as you navigate the pandemic? Please share your suggestions.


We received many comments and suggestions to this question, and appreciate all of these ideas, big and small. We were pleased to see that some of the programs suggested are efforts we have already started, such as “Start Strong” Coffee meet-ups (next round is scheduled for May 15th), this member survey, and personal check-ins with members.


We will continue to offer these, as well as implement some new ideas. A summary of the responses includes requests for continued information sharing including COVID stimulus for businesses, government updates on Return to Work orders, and how VT Firms are being affected. Some requested additional Professional Development opportunities to earn credits online. Some requested opportunities to connect with peers. We received a number of requests for lobbying efforts for economic relief, including extending the SBA loans at the federal level, delaying code updates, and keeping on top of the longer term issues such as disaster relief. Some want AIA Vermont to think big regarding the Future of the Profession, including what the pandemic will mean for design going forward.


AIAVT’s response to date has included sending emails directly to members with information about the Governor’s reopening plans for businesses, and updates on SBA loans and programs. If you are not receiving these emails, please contact us at info@aiavt.org


For CEU opportunities, please see the regularly updated list of upcoming CEU offerings from our Allied members on our web calendar. Webinars & resources for sole proprietors can be found on AIA’s Small Firm Exchange, and free courses are being offered at AIAU.org.


Conclusion


The information gathered here will help us better serve our members, by providing the most relevant information and content to you going forward. We will continue to keep you informed of any policy changes, programs, and other relevant information. Please reach out to our Executive Director if you have specific questions, comments or concerns at this time. AIA Vermont is doing its best to support Vermont architects through this difficult time, and we look forward to connecting with each of you.