PFMI surveys reflect progress with key target audiences

The Post-Frame Market Initiative, the market development initiative of the National Frame Building Association, has been working since 2007 to expand the use of post frame in the light-commercial market by targeting architects and building owners with education and marketing programs. PFMI employs a number of metrics to measure the impact of these initiatives and measure the health of the industry. Two recent studies indicate that PFMI is making progress on its goal.

Design Community Survey Indicates Growth
A recent survey finds that the preference for post-frame construction in the low-rise, light-commercial market increased about 60 percent from 2012, reaching its highest level (4.7 percent) in the four-year history of this survey.

Although the 4.7 percent of respondents who prefer post frame is modest, it is important to note that this survey is a random sample of Architect magazine subscribers from across the United States. Almost half of the respondents are from major metropolitan areas, where post frame is not as well established or as accepted as other construction methods.
The data from 2013 compared to those from 2010 show that post-frame and stud-wall construction gained market share (about 45 percent and 10 percent, respectively), while brick/block and steel-frame construction lost market share (about 18 percent and 8 percent, respectively).

Since fall 2010, the benchmark survey has been sent annually to a random sampling of subscribers to Architect magazine, who are asked about their construction preferences and practices and their attitudes about, and experiences with, post-frame construction in particular.

Increased Collaboration Between Architects and Building Owners
In the 2013 survey, the number of respondents who indicated that the architect has the most influence in selecting a construction method declined markedly: 55.8 percent is the lowest level in the survey’s four years. Behavior appears to be shifting, as indicated by this decrease and a corresponding increase in the percentage of respondents (28 percent) who indicated that the building owner has the most influence. It is worth noting that the majority of the respondents who selected “Other” indicate that the client or building owner collaborates with the designer to select a construction method.

The results suggest an increased collaboration between designers and building owners. PFMI analysts recognize that the answer to this question shifts according to the survey audience and that, in many cases, decisions concerning construction methods are collaborative. What is most significant about these data is that architects—who in previous surveys had indicated that they had a more prominent role in decision making—are now conceding that building owners, in many cases, have the most influence.

Architects and designers continue to be a primary focus of the PFMI program, but building owners have become an important target audience for PFMI as well.

Need for Greater Awareness of Post-Frame Construction
The results of the 2013 Design Community Survey are encouraging for PFMI and its supporters: growth in light-commercial construction for post frame indicates that the PFMI program is reaching its target audiences. But the survey clearly indicates that work remains. Awareness of post frame continues to be a challenge: only 32 percent of designers indicate that they have specified post frame for a project. More than half of the respondents say they haven’t specified post frame primarily because they don’t know about it.

Lead Conversion Survey Highlights Impact of Education
The recently completed 2013 Lead Conversion Survey measures the impact of PFMI programs on the growth of post-frame construction by surveying architects, specifiers and engineers who have been exposed to PFMI’s educational courses. Respondents who took an educational course in 2013 forecast that 42 percent of the buildings they will design or specify in 2014 will be post frame, which represents a 27 percent increase in plans to use post frame over 2013 results.

These results seem to indicate that as designers become more familiar with post frame, they are more likely to specify post frame. Furthermore, respondents indicate that the primary use of their post-frame projects will be in the commercial sector and 37 percent will be residential.

Respondents also say that they favor digital or electronic channels for gaining knowledge and information—64 percent find websites like the most valuable in their work, and 61 percent state that e-learning platforms like online universities are the most valuable.

PFMI to Refine and Expand Digital Resources in 2014
Accordingly, PFMI is reinvesting in its digital properties in 2014. The Post-Frame Advantage website is being redesigned to give it a fresh, user-friendly interface and to bring it up to current technological standards. The new website, which is targeted to reach architects, designers and commercial building owners, will be launched in the second quarter of 2014.

PFMI also is working to expand the reach of its educational offerings by hosting online courses on Hanley Wood University. Hanley Wood publishes Architect magazine, the national publication of the American Institute of Architects, and the courses will be promoted to more than 60,000 architects and designers in the United States. Two courses were launched on HWU in early 2014, and two or three additional courses will be launched in 2014. PFMI expects that these courses will significantly broaden the reach of its educational curriculum and will have a positive impact on the awareness and perception of post frame in the design community.

PFMI leaders are encouraged by the results of recent surveys indicating that its programs are having an impact on primary target audiences. Those working on PFMI will continue to measure the health of the industry and the impact of our programs in 2014 with surveys and studies. Post frame is well positioned for growth in the light-commercial construction market, and we expect it to continue this growth trajectory in 2014. FBN

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