Second Annual Survey of Pro Bono Service by U.S. Architecture Firms Completed

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Survey by nonprofit Public Architecture shows architects across the U.S. putting their skills and talents to work for the public good.

Architects throughout the country are increasingly putting their skills to work for the public good, according to a recent survey of 350 firms by nonprofit Public Architecture.

For the second year in a row, the survey queried architecture and design firms that have pledged a minimum of 1% of their billable hours to pro bono service via Public Architecture's flagship program, "The 1%." Public Architecture's goal is to direct at least 1% of every firm's time to pro bono service.

"With the support of firm recruitment partners such as the American Institute of Architects, we've assembled a critical mass of firms," says John Cary, Executive Director of Public Architecture. "The range of work being undertaken by these firms is a testament to the need for and power of design."

The firms surveyed this year ranged from sole practitioners to some of the largest firms in the country, such as HKS and Perkins+Will. To date, Public Architecture has recruited nearly 400 firms, of which 350 had signed on by the time the survey was issued. The most recent major addition to The 1% firm roster is HOK, a 2,600-person firm based in St. Louis with nearly two dozen offices worldwide, including 15 in the U.S.

"If every architecture professional in the country were to pledge just 1% of their time to pro bono service, it would be the equivalent of a massive firm like HOK working fulltime for the public good," says architect John Peterson, founder of Public Architecture. "One need only look at the sheer productive capacity of large firms like HOK and Perkins+Will to understand what a commitment of this scale from the profession as a whole could mean for our communities and country."

In an effort to measure trends, the 2008 firm survey was nearly identical to the one that Public Architecture administered a year ago.

Key 2008 Findings:
-virtually every firm reported exceeding the goal of 1%;
-more than two-thirds of firm respondents devoted 2% or more of their time to pro bono service over the past year;
-68% named "social relevance" as the most important variable in choosing pro bono projects;
-73% cited "community benefit" as having the highest impact on pro bono work; and
-"financial constraints" and "available staff time" remain the greatest obstacles to engaging in more pro bono work.

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the survey was the long list of projects that respondent firms noted taking part in or completing over the previous year. The greatest percentage of firms undertook projects related to education and schools in under-served or under-resourced communities--building additions, classroom and library renovations, and athletic facility design.

The firm of William McDonough + Partners described its environmental strategy work for Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation, centered in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Other firms worked with established nonprofits, such as Habitat for Humanity to advance actual projects as well as broader changes to individual Habitat chapters' green and sustainable design efforts. Sustainable design was also a common thread in many firms' community work with local AIA components via the national organization's Sustainable Design Assistance Teams.

"In all, these projects represent the many applications of design, the power of pro bono service, as well as the range of needs to be addressed in communities across the country," adds Peterson. "Much work remains, but one can only be encouraged and inspired by the joint efforts undertaken by firm participants of The 1% program."

About Public Architecture | http://www.publicarchitecture.org

Established in 2002 by architect John Peterson, Public Architecture is a national nonprofit organization based in San Francisco. Public Architecture acts as a catalyst for public discourse through education, advocacy, and the design of public spaces and amenities. "The 1%" (http://www.theonepercent.org) is a national program launched by Public Architecture in 2005 that challenges architecture firms to pledge 1% of their billable hours to pro bono work. If every architecture professional in the U.S. dedicated just 20 hours annually, it would add up to 5,000,000 hours each year--the equivalent of 2,500-person firm working fulltime for the public good. During 2008, The 1% program has been supported by a range of sponsors and partnerships, including The American Institute of Architects (AIA), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and leading firms such as HKS, McCall Design Group, and Perkins+Will.

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Barbara Franzoia

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