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Overseas earnings up for AJ100 companies

This year’s survey shows practices are increasingly running international projects from UK offices, as overseas earnings rise to £86.9 million despite a decline in the number of architects employed abroad

Overseas income has risen among the country’s largest practices despite the number of architects employed outside the UK falling.

Among the 78 practices that supplied their overseas fee income to both this and last year’s AJ100 rankings, architectural fee income generated to their UK offices has edged up by £770,000 to £86.9 million.

However the number of overseas architects employed by the UK’s biggest hitters has slipped by 4.8 per cent over the last 12 months.

The total number of architects employed overseas by the AJ100 practices was 4,787 in December 2011 – 242 less than the number employed by the same firms appearing on last year’s league table.

Lindsay Urquhart of recruitment agency Bespoke Careers believes companies are increasingly running overseas projects from the UK because it makes jobs ‘easier to manage’ and is less risky than opening offices abroad.

According to Urquhart, clients in Asia and China are also keen on the ‘status of British design’ and are willing to pay higher fees if the work is carried out in the UK rather than locally.

She added: ‘We are being increasingly asked by London-based practices to source architects with language skills. We currently have London-based positions for Czech, French, Mandarin, Norwegian and Turkish speakers. This wasn’t the case in 2007. Perhaps it reflects the fact that practices have had to go overseas for their work but are undertaking it here in the UK.’

The aggregate income from overseas work earned by all the practices listed on the AJ100 league table topped £220 million this year – a huge overall rise put down to Foster + Partners’ decision to reveal its overseas fees – an impressive £122 million.

In terms of the next 12 months, firms expect the overseas market to contract. The number of overseas staff, including architects, was 73,367 in December 2011. When the AJ100 practices were asked how many members of staff they would have overseas by December this year, the total predication was 70,166, a drop by 3,201.

Read the full findings of the AJ100 survey, including profiles of all the practices featured in the rankings, in next week’s special AJ100 edition of the AJ.

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