The escalating use of Indian CAD sub-contractors to cut overheads in British practices is threatening the design process, the RIBA has warned.
The institute fears that if outsourcing of basic design processes becomes any more widespread it will lead to a 'collapse in professional standards'.
And Alan Davidson, owner of computer imaging specialist Hayes Davidson, warned that 'opportunities to use cheap Third World CAD firms' have been on the rise for at least two years.
Altringham-based practice The Calder Peel Partnership said it had been forced by staff shortages and the need to cut costs to use 'two or three of these firms'. 'But there are more and more companies doing this, ' the firm's IT specialist, John Elliot, added. 'I would suggest most big practices are at it. CAD-trained staff are hard to come by and cost a lot. This is the cheaper option.'
A spokeswoman for Hickton Madeley in Telford said although the practice was as yet 'uncommitted to India', it was something it was considering. 'We are a business and we have to look at all options for saving on our overheads, ' she said.
But the chairman of RIBA's small practices committee, Simon Foxell, said architects needed to be 'very careful before considering this course of action'. 'This would be okay if you knew the subcontractor well, ' he told the AJ. 'But you have to be careful because there is a danger of losing control of the whole design process.' Davidson added:
'This is working mail order, and not face-to-face.
Standards will always slip if you do that.'
The RIBA's warning follows news that telecoms giant BT has decided to open two Indian call centres, which will employ 2,200 people by 2004. The move is part of plans which will result in a cut in BT's UK call centres from about 100 to 31.