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PROJECT TOPIC: A CRITICAL STUDY OF THE PRACTICE CHARACTERISTICS OF ARCHITECTURAL FIRMS IN NIGERIA

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ABSTRACT

Very little is known about the architectural firms in Nigeria. The  study  thus  explored  the characteristics of architectural firms  in  Nigeria  empirically  using  the  systems  approach  to  the study of organizations. The study investigated the organizational profiles, cultures,  strategies  and structures of the architectural firms. The tasks and information  technology  characteristics  of  the architectural  firms  as  well  as  the  external  influences  on  the  firms   were   also   investigated, culminating in the investigation of the types of architectural firms that existed in Nigeria.This study thus took an approach which was  exploratory  and  descriptive.  Therefore,  the research  was  mainly  inductive.   The   architectural   practice   was   studied   as   a   professional organization and the architectural firms were  studied  holistically,  taking  the  systems  approach. The  sample  size  was  derived  from  the  list  of  architectural   firms   registered   by   Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON, 2006). The purposive  and  random  sampling  methods were employed. The survey  and  qualitative  methods  were  used,  with  the  firm  as  the  unit  of analysis. The survey instrument was the structured questionnaire, while the qualitative  instrument was the interview schedule. The  ninety-two  (92)  questionnaires  collected  were  analyzed  using frequencies, cross tabulations, the chi-square test, principal component analysis, the coefficient  of correlation (Pearson’s product-moment correlation  coefficient),  Multiple  Analysis  of  Variance, (MANOVA), discriminant analysis, regression analysis and cluster  analysis.   The  data  from  the interview were analyzed using content analysis. The five types of firms identified by the study included male-dominated firms,  amorphous firms, conventional firms, stable/ traditional firms and versatile firms.  The most important  causes of differences between the types of architectural firms in Nigeria  were  level  of  specialization  of activities, and varieties of services offered, which accounted for more than half of  the  differences between the firms. Most of the architectural firms sampled in Nigeria were found  to  be  more  than  ten  (10) years old, small sized, and owned by a sole principal. They had the culture of innovation,  but  not the culture of aggression in the pursuit of business opportunities or concern for  profit.  The  study found that most of the clients of the architectural firms  were  private  individuals  in  Nigeria  and most of their projects were residential projects. Most of the clients of the architectural  firms  were sourced through personal contact and the projects most of the  firms  carried  out  were  those  that they were able to obtain commissions for. Most of the firms were engaged in projects  which  used the design and build method and these firms were found to  have  more  residential  projects.  Also participation in design and build method appeared to be a survival strategy as  the  firms  that  had existed for more than 15 years did not participate in projects which used  this  method.  The  firms mostly used competence in design, followed by AUTOCAD and information  technology  literacy as criteria for the selection of staff. Findings of the  study  indicated  that  information  technology facilities were highly available in most of the firms, and the internet was mostly used for  sourcing information. The results also suggest that the internet was used as a tool for centralization. The study further found that the external influences on most of the architectural firms were not so strong and the greatest influences were those exerted  by  clients,  advances  in  information technology and the national economy.  The  characteristics  of  the  firms  most  affected  by  these external influences were the staff management culture of the firms, the strategic goals of the  firms and the qualification and experience of the principal. The study concluded that architectural firms need to  take  advantage  of  the  opportunities provided by information technology to operate on a global level. There is a need  for  architectural schools in Nigeria to fully   integrate  internship  into  the  study  of  architecture  as  well  as  train students extensively in construction  methods  to  meet  the  demands  of  architectural  firms.  The study further concluded that there is a need for the business  training  of  architects  as  this  was  a factor responsible for the success of architectural  firms.  The  systems  approach  to  the  study  of architectural firms had been useful and practical.  More  studies  are  required,  using  the  systems approach, on peculiarities of architectural firms and their management strategies.


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