US collaborations offer lifeline to UK firms
UK architects have been urged to seek joint ventures with local firms to take advantage of the slowly improving but extremely competitive US market
California-based Buro Happold principal David Herd told AJ that in certain areas and sectors, US firms were seeking foreign partners to help them win work.
US architects reported a third consecutive month of improved demand in January, giving further impetus to belief of a recovery in the country.
Herd said: ‘It is a good time for British architects to be searching for work in the US. We have a number of projects where architects are joint venturing to bring in sector or client-specific experience.’
He said that while the market was picking up, it was a gradual process from a low base and the ‘real opportunity’ for UK firms lay in the fierce competition for work.
‘Bidders have to truly differentiate themselves from the competition and are asking themselves whether they have the right portfolios to do that or whether they need to joint venture with someone that has.’
British architects were held in high esteem across the Atlantic, he added.
‘It is a lot harder to be innovative in the US due to local codes and unionisation. You are always being told you can’t do something. People look to British architects with a mixture of admiration and jealousy.’
Herd said the East and West coasts were the most resurgent at the moment, and that higher education and research buildings were the best sectors for new work.
But he warned that the forthcoming election and the ongoing Eurozone crisis could both slow down the fragile US building sector recovery.