Architecture’s Economic Contribution Undervalued by $1bn

Monday, May 30th, 2016
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A huge chunk of the architecture sector’s contribution to various parts of the Australian economy remains overlooked and unacknowledged.

A new study indicates that at least $1 billion in revenue added to the Australian economy by the architecture sector is left unreported because the industry’s contribution to a slew of areas outside of standard construction sector analyses remains overlooked.

The research report entitled Measure Up: Innovation and the Value Add of Architecture, produced by the University Technology Sydney (UTS) on behalf of the NSW Architects Registration Board indicates that the contribution  made by providers of architectural services to the economy is being underreported by around 15 per cent.

The four key areas where economic value-add provided by architecture remains unacknowledged are new technology,  new business cultural products, and architectural education.

The figure of $1 billion produced by report is a significant lowballing of unreported value, however, given that researchers could only produce revenue estimates for the areas of cultural products and education, and lacked sufficient data to obtain accurate figures for new technology and business.

Cultural product is one key area where the architecture sector makes a significant yet overlooked contribution. Architecture is emerging an increasingly important draw for tourists, which in turn generates additional revenue for accommodation providers, retail and transport operators as well as restaurants and bars.

An outstanding example of this is the Venice Architectural Biennale, which report authors Anthony Burke and Gerard Reinmuth witnessed first-hand in their capacity as creative directors of Australia’s exhibition for the event. The 2012 Biennale brought as many as 178,000 visitor to Venice in that year alone, creating a major added windfall for the storied canal city’s tourism industry.

Another area where architecture is making a largely overlooked economic contribution is tertiary education, where courses and training on the subject continue to prove highly popular with both local and international students. The report’s authors warn that online architecture could prove to be a rival to established education providers, however, as could unregulated “predator businesses.”

While the UTS researchers were unable to produce exact figures for the contribution made by architecture to the technology sector, technological research and development undertaken in relation to architectural projects has demonstrable flow-on impacts for other industries.

An example of this is the glass louvre system that formed a part of Renzo Piano’s 2007 design for Sydney’s Aurora Place, overlooking the Opera House from next to the Botanical Gardens. The system devised specifically for the project was subsequently converted into a new product line for buildings with similar design needs.

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