Outlook 2021: What’s the Forecast?

Outlook 2021

Joe Keal – BNIM
Julie Pierce – Henderson Engineers
Joe Blaesing – JE Dunn
Shannon Redetzke – Scott Rice

Thank you for your participation on our “Outlook 2021- What the 2021 Forecast?” Fall Panel Discussion.  Here is a recap of the topics and the information that was discussed. 

Snapshot of 2020 Climate

AIA Architectural Billings Index Explanation:

Per AIA.org The Architecture Billings Index is an economic indicator for nonresidential construction activity, with a lead time of approximately 9–12 months. Investment groups like Wells Fargo, media outlets, firms of all sizes, and business leaders rely on this leading monthly economic indicator to assess business conditions and predict and track the market.

Source: https://www.aia.org/pages/6340129-abi-september-2020-despite-an-ongoing-decl

2021 Market Outlook

At the inception of the idea of this panel we wanted to give insight to our audience on what the different trades have seen that could be an indicator of what this next year has in store for us.  Tune in to our recording to see what Jeff at JE Dunn has to say about what Jan 2020 looked like and what we predict for 2021.

We asked the Panelists-What market segments are you starting to see a shift in?  Joe Keal suggested the question- Should we re-look the way we are approaching design?

 Eight months into the pandemic we are already starting to see a shift in what manufactures are focusing on.  We believe we are at a critical time where the design community and manufacturing need to work hand in hand together to respond to the market.  Keeping a good working relationship and open communication lines is key to developing products that the community is asking for. We are all seeing this in the HVAC industry where they have responded to the need for better air quality.  How can they get this into the hands of users quickly?  Three years ago it was a discussion as a possible want but one that wasn’t at the top priority for their budget.  Now, has shifted to an immediate need. 

Here at Mercer Zimmerman we are seeing this with the development of UV-C and 405nm light disinfection technology by multiple manufactures.  They have responded to our knowledge in the field and us, to their research.  We have been talking about disinfection technology for several years and now the tables have turned and we are being asked to present on this topic just as our designers are.

Design Consideration and Inspiration:

Certainly the liveliest part of the conversation in the planning meetings was how design considerations may change.  Shannon Redetzke of Scott Rice suggested that in light of these changes we need to be asking the question of the budget more often than we ever have.  What is your budget?  What is a priority for you?  What can we live without to get that item that has now shifted to a priority?  There seems to be a lot of stopping and starting of projects.  We have a hand in ensuring the project is on the right track by asking the right questions and discussing costs up front. 

Secondly- Health, Safety and Well-being-topics that architects have been talking to their customers about for years are undoubtedly at the forefront of conversations.  The design standards are higher than they were before.  We are seeing a shift where the community as a whole feels more comfortable signing off something that dials into the well-being of users. –Shannon Redetzke.  Since 2005, Landscape architects were designing parklets.  They saw the future.  Now, restaurants wouldn’t survive without them.  It’s no longer a want but a need that we can all get behind and citys’ see the value in. 

Julie Pierce and Joe Keal suggested that these circumstances should inspire us to invest in long term community development and rural communities.  How can you offer your support as a design community?  Can you challenge your company to invest in this?


  • We believe the key to success this year is to share and communicate in this process together. Something our community does so well.  
  • The key is Resiliency 
  • The key is to Inspire our clients  

 I want to thank our panelists for their time and dedication to planning for this discussion.  This was very insightful today and we also very much enjoyed the planning process with them.  These engagements are what make my job fun. 

I just want to share that went to the Indian Creek Library last week with my girls- and I want to add that this project was up for an award at the 2020 AIA Design Excellence Awards last week- congratulations to the design team on that.   I saw this section of books called Little People Big Dreams and we happened to pick up the Maya Angelou book.  It’s an adorable little series for children and their website describes the series as “discovering the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists to scientists and activists. All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream. Now with more than 2.2 million copies sold worldwide, the series continues to grow and expand, introducing children around the world to artists, trailblazers, and dreamers who each made a big impact in the world around them.  A great Christmas gift for the little ones around you!  The point is that Maya Angelou said: 

Just do right. Right may not be expedient, it may not be profitable, but it will satisfy your soul. It brings you the kind of protection that bodyguards can’t give you. So try to live your life in a way that you will not regret years of useless virtue and inertia and timidity. Take up the battle, take it up.  Its yours, your life. Your world.   

And to that I say, Kansas City is our world.   

It seems clear that there is a lot to be gained from this pandemic.  There has been so much tragedy that has come from this and it seems prudent that we make an extra effort to learn what we can and change the ways that needed changing.  Let’s not go back to our old habits.  Joe Keal said “How do we desire to Re-emerge?”  How do you desire to re-emerge?

Tune in to our recording of the live presentation here to see the full discussion.

My best to you,
Samira Kiger