Evaluating and selecting the right materials for a construction project—whether residential or commercial—is a critical task, as it impacts the durability, aesthetic and overall quality of the structure in question.
For many projects, particularly in the commercial realm, this task first falls to architects or specifiers.
Over the past year, they have demonstrated a willingness to try new brands and products, and stick with them. Additionally, more than other professionals in the construction industry, they leverage multiple channels, increasingly purchasing from online suppliers and direct from the product specific suppliers and manufacturers according to the 2022 Building Products Customer Guide by The Farnsworth Group and Venveo.
As architects and specifiers evaluate building materials in 2022, there is an opportunity to capture their attention with your sole brand and motivate them to integrate one of your products into their upcoming projects.
How Do Architects and Specifiers Choose Materials?
When architects specify materials, they take multiple factors into consideration, including cost, availability, customer preference and sustainability. It’s critical that the varying building materials selected for a project work together cohesively for the optimal outcome. Each individual choice affects the appearance of the building, the function of the space, and the aesthetic of the space, not to mention the project budget and anticipated upkeep.
Here is a closer look at the criteria used for evaluating building materials:
1. Appearance / Aesthetic
Architects tend to be particular about the appearance of a home or building, putting an emphasis on how it looks as well as on how it functions. Overall, what kind of user experience do they envision, and what materials contribute to that? How can smart home automation products improve the user experience in the space? They are thinking about the physical characteristics of a product, including the color, texture, density, weight and general appearance. Architects strive to prove they are effecting positive change in the way society functions, and this is often expressed in their specification choices.
As the construction industry evolves, architects are increasingly factoring in sustainability when evaluating building materials in 2022. They feel a growing responsibility to use eco-friendly and sustainable construction materials that decrease the carbon footprint of a new construction job. Additionally, some architects are prioritizing locally sourced materials that are easier to access and transport.
Architects and specifiers are focused on designing a project that can stand the test of time. After all, for many architects, there is solace in the long hours they work at the thought of pointing to a building and telling their loved ones, “Did you know I designed that?” Practically speaking, product durability impacts how a building functions and the amount of maintenance that is required in the following years to preserve the utility and value of a certain feature. There are also regional variables to take into consideration. The climate, terrain and lifestyle of a particular locale will determine what type of building materials are best suited for a given project.
4. Customer Preference
Architects are ultimately working for homeowners, property owners, designing buildings to their desired outcomes. Some home or business owners are determined to incorporate certain construction materials to give the building a particular look and feel. However, architects and specifiers can also recommend or suggest products with similar attributes to create a comparable ambiance. This means that what is trendy to consumers is top of mind for architects and will influence their specification choices.
Cost is still a consideration for specifiers and architects during the design phase, but less so than other considerations of their trade, such as their creative leeway and how a particular product makes the space look and feel.
Architects and specifiers typically have an overall allowance into which they must fit the total cost of materials. That is why about 50 percent of architects go online to look for pricing information. However, these creative professionals aren’t thinking about cost in a vacuum. They’re also weighting value and the overall outcome.
Will a specific building material enhance the quality of life for the property owner? Does it uniquely contribute to the status, beauty or performance of a building? Will it retain its value over the long term?
How Do You Market Building Products to Architects and Specifiers?
With architects and specifiers taking a common set of factors into consideration when evaluating building materials in 2022, you can strategize more effectively when developing and marketing construction materials and products based on customized market research.
Since 2020, there has been a significant increase—of 20 percent—in the number of architects who have tried a new supplier. They are primarily driven to experiment because of availability, pricing and selection. In fact, about 18 percent of architects purchased from a new retailer because they had more selections and choices among products.
Architects and specifiers also exhibit a willingness to experiment with new brands in search of the perfect product for a construction project. Availability played a part in that trend in 2021, because of the wide scale supply shortages or backups experienced over the past year and a half.
However, architects also prioritize selection. They want to create the optimal experience and environment for property owners, and they’ll search around for the ideal products or try integrating new materials if they believe it will improve the function and aesthetic of a building.
Online research lends itself to the idea of increasing "product expansion,” as architects are regularly shown recommended products on websites like Amazon, Zoro and big box store sites. And architects take advantage of online resources for researching and considering new products for upcoming projects.
Approximately 61 percent or architects take the initiative to look through a manufacturer’s website and home improvement store websites to glean product information. More than other trade professionals, architects also utilize Amazon and general searches on Google to do their research and get ideas for new products.
When architects try a new product from a new brand, they are more likely to view their new brand positively compared to other professionals. This is directly related to how they perceive the performance of the new product.
For example, according to our research, approximately 94 percent of architects and specifiers reported being “somewhat satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” with a new brand that they tried. For all intents and purposes, this basically means every specifier other than highly brand loyal to their prior brand had a positive experience with the new brand they tried.
Meanwhile, about 83 percent of designers and architects perceived their new brand as “somewhat better” or “much better” than their normal brand. This translates into an opportunity for your company to acquire new business, as professionals are willing to try a new brand and, more importantly, stay with it once they do.
Architects, among other commercial professionals, are more likely to prefer more online research when investigating materials and products. More than going to tradeshows, discussing materials with sales reps, or browsing catalogs, they prefer the ease and convenience of websites.
Having information at their fingertips 24/7 has changed the way architects work over the past two decades. In the process of conducting online research, they are drawn to reading customer reviews. This is how they pick up details about various products and how they perform for other professionals. To that end, curating and encouraging online reviews for your building materials company is an essential aspect of appealing to architects and designers.
Additionally, email marketing announcing product expansion and availability can be an effective way to connect with architects and specifiers. Developing web portals for architects to save ideas from your website for other projects they are designing is another tactic you can deploy to increase architect return rates to your brand.
These professionals also are using more and a wider array of social media sources for research than other pros. From various social media sources—including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest—they are primarily seeking out inspiration, brand or product information, as well as information from retailers, industry news and manufacturers’ sales materials.
With a strong social media presence, you can introduce prospective customers from the architect and design industry to your construction products and materials and increase your overall brand awareness. Pairing your product with well known, trendy materials on mood boards and promoting that content through social media is one tactic you can try. Use your digital platforms to highlight the characteristics of your items that coincide with the criteria architects use when evaluating all materials for a project.
Developing and Distributing Products for Professional Use
Architects have a specific lens they utilize when designing a new construction project that impacts how they research, evaluate, select and source building materials and other products. As a manufacturer, it’s important to understand what this process typically looks like for design professionals in order to develop products and market them appropriately. For more information about industry trends among architects, builders and other trade professionals, read our full report here.