Although healthcare and higher education are still active, they are presenting fewer opportunities, he says.

Uhlir expects to see growing opportunities for those who eagerly embrace alternative project-delivery systems, such as design-build; design-led design-build; and builder-led design-build.

“Those systems provide a better end product through collaboration, communication and getting all the specialists together right from the start,” he says.

Uhlir says that he expects the ride through 2011 to be a little bumpy, though generally upward.

Jason Shelley, executive director of AIA Indianapolis and AIA Indiana, says his member architects are telling him that they are cautiously optimistic.

“Folks are adjusting to the ‘new normal,’ getting busier, and working hard,” Shelley says. “People are just a little bit more optimistic now.”

Shelley says that many of the busier architectural firms in Indiana have enough work right now to hire, but are leery because they are not yet certain how long the current level of activity will last.

Health care is picking up and there seems to be a little more credit available, Shelley adds. He believes that things are much better now than they were last year at this time – but notes that it’s a relative “better” because things then were so bad.

He says the improvement and optimism seems to stretch across all of Indiana, with the possible exception of the South Bend area.

“People are figuring out how to work in the ‘new normal’ and pent-up demand is beginning to flow,” he says. “I expect 2011 to be a little better – tolerable, but not great. We’re looking at a long, slow climb.”

Bob Nartonis, senior vice president, Mortenson Construction of Chicago, believes that the Midwest is still in a recession that will not end in 2011.

“We’re going to bounce along the bottom for several months,” he says.

Nartonis says that contractors who have not diversified into sectors that offer more opportunity – such as renewable energy, infrastructure work, or federal construction – may face difficult challenges.

“Diversification is the key to getting through the next 12 months,” he says, noting that Mortenson’s 10 years of ongoing diversification have put the company in excellent position to weather the current storm.

Nartonis says it’s still too early to tell how the results of November’s elections will affect construction spending, but he believes that anything that will boost confidence in the overall economy and improve the flow of financing would help.

James Arends, an architect and vice president of Gilbane Building Co. in Chicago, sees the design community picking up momentum. Arends says that means it will be nine or more months until the work finds its way to the construction industry.

“The third quarter of 2011 is the first possible time construction will see improvement,” he says.

Although there will be pockets and flurries of activity here and there, Arends expects a long slow climb out of the current hole.

He sees a large pent-up demand in the corporate market, with capital expenditures on hold but ready to pop. The most prevalent projects in the wings are headquarters buildings and research facilities, along with health care and higher education.

Agrends says Gilbane has responded to the current market by selecting projects carefully and by putting extra effort into servicing its existing customers.

Dennis Lavallee is executive director of the St. Louis Council of Construction Consumers, a group of the largest and most frequent buyers of construction services in the St. Louis area.

Lavallee expects 2011 to remain essentially level with 2010 in his area and among the members of the SLCCC.

“None of the members is looking at starting any large projects soon,” he says. “They, like other construction consumers, want to be more certain there will be a need for and return on their investment.”