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US collaborations offer lifeline to UK firms

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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.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • It is encouraging to note that US firms are urging UK architects to collaborate with them in order to stimulate the slowly improving US construction market. Whilst seeking foreign partners is one means by which to stimulate economic growth, another approach the US industry could take would be to analyse their supply chains in order to identify avenues from which additional savings can be created - often where they have not previously been considered achievable.

    Construction companies have traditionally sub-contracted each specialist building service element of a project – such as lighting, HVAC, BMS, CCTV, Access Control and IT Cabling – to a collection of as many as half a dozen companies who would each contribute in their own way.

    However each additional supply chain member brings with it its own costs and mark-ups. US firms looking to make further savings therefore, would be wise to seek sub-contractors who can provide substantial elements of the project wholly on their own – one-stop-shops, companies who only need to add a profit margin once.

    This rationalisation of the supply chain can typically result in as much as 2% of the costs of traditional sub-contracting being removed – a hugely valuable saving when considering the overall profitability of the entire project.

    US construction companies then have the opportunity, having released costs from the supply chain, to either increase their overall margins, or to offer a discount back to their client without affecting anticipated profits – a very powerful proposition in a cash-strapped market.

    Kari Baden
    Managing Director
    Dimension Data Advanced Infrastructure

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