UK architects look to Middle East and Africa as industry expects 60% boost to contracts pipeline (UK)

A comprehensive survey of the UK's architectural profession has shown that the sector is expecting a massive 60% boost in overseas contracts over the next year, with countries such as Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia predicted to provide the strongest new business opportunities, overtaking the traditionally fertile Western and Eastern Europe.

According to the annual AJ100 survey, which polled around 135 practices in the United Kingdom, overseas contracts are now collectively worth around £1.4 billion (approx. €1.46 bln.) in fees to UK architects (2008 figure), with total overseas earnings now exceeding domestic fees in the current market.

The findings of the AJ100 survey, which will be revealed in detail on 27 May, predict that the Middle East will account for 20% of all overseas earnings next year, while fee income from Western and Eastern Europe will account for 18% and 14%, respectively, illustrating that Europe remains an important pipeline for contracts.

Other international markets of note where growth potential has been demonstrated include Africa, and especially North Africa in countries such as Libya and Morocco. African contracts leapt from a total of 4% in 2008 to 7% in 2009, with further growth anticipated.

Speaking about the growth in overseas contracts, Mouzhan Majidi of AJ100 practice Foster + Partners said: "We are working in 50 countries and 85% of our work is international." According to Majidi around 35% of their fees come from the Middle East, mostly Abu Dhabi.

Other UK practices in the AJ100 have reported similar growth, with BDP increasing their overseas architectural fee income from £17.9 million in 2007 to £28.6 million in 2008; and Atkins seeing an increase from £15 million in 2007 to £36 million in 2008.

"Britain, and particularly London, has become a brain's trust for clients across the world seeking excellence in urban design and architecture," says Kieran Long, Editor-in-Chief of The Architects' Journal.

"The global market is increasingly looking to the biggest architecture practices in Britain for unmatched expertise in areas such as sustainable design,' says Christine Murray, Deputy Editor of The Architects' Journal.

According to the AJ100, strong business growth areas in the domestic market will be seen in public sector work, and especially infrastructure, such as Crossrail and Network Rail projects, prisons, power stations, fire stations, healthcare and education.

The AJ100 is the authoritative annual barometer for the state of the UK's architectural sector, with the majority of UK practices submitting data on their performance in the last 12 months, and thousands of registered architects responding to the industry survey.

The data submitted into the AJ100 rankings provides a clear snapshot of the performance of the sector, with awards presented based upon findings from the data and nominations made by senior architects and industry observers.

Categories include:

Highest First-Time Entrant
Practice of the Year
International Practice of the Year
Fastest Growing Practice
Regional awards
Clients' Practice of the Year
Employer of the Year
Contribution to the Profession
Most Sustainable Practice
Building of the Year

The AJ100 Awards will take place on Wednesday May 27, in Canary Wharf, London. The AJ100 is organised by The Architects' Journal, published by Emap.

Source: FD

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