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David Roberts, AEDAS, on globalisation - 'British practices are leaders abroad'

It is interesting to compare British construction professionals with our counterparts elsewhere in Europe.

Continental practices tend to be relatively small and focused on cities or regions, with some notable exceptions of course, while there are many practices in the UK with more than 100 qualified architects carrying out projects overseas. Maybe this is part of the history of Britain as an island state and trading nation with both economic and cultural ties to many parts of the world.

When I look at the Bund in Shanghai I cannot help thinking how it is in many ways similar to the waterfront in Liverpool. Singapore has maintained much of its historic British-designed buildings, resulting in a skyline where East meets West. British construction professionals working around the globe is not a recent phenomenon. Globalisation has created greater opportunities for British companies. It is natural for UK-based multinationals to turn to construction professionals with whom they are familiar.

Overseas clients often seek out British expertise. British architects are perceived as leaders, not only as design trend-setters, but also because they use advanced and innovative technology. With green design increasingly high on the agenda of overseas clients, British designers are seen as at the forefront. The ‘Brand Britain’ badge is a mark of distinction for clients, who are quick to mention that their building was designed by a British architectural firm.

So, despite tough times at home, opportunities in emerging markets such as China, India, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Brazil and elsewhere offer huge opportunities. In addition, the current recession offers businesses, which previously may not have focused on international work, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spread their wings.

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