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The game is global

Stephen Hodder

With construction at the forefront of world globalisation, the RIBA has an ambitious plan

Over the last two years the RIBA has been gearing up to an ambitious and important strand of international work. Spearheaded by Peter Oborn, vice president international, and Marcus Deeley, head of international, the strategy received further endorsement at December’s RIBA Council. Seeking to promote and facilitate RIBA members globally, it also sets out a blueprint for the institute to participate in international dialogue in a meaningful way. On fascinating trips to Brazil and to India recently, I held conversations on these themes that were insightful and useful. 

The long-recognised shift of the construction market towards the new economies in Asia, South America and the Middle East has been made more significant by a relatively static home market. An assessment by Global Construction Perspectives and Oxford Economics forecast more than 70% growth in worldwide construction by 2025, giving a total value of $15 trillion. China, India and the US are together expected to deliver 60% of global construction growth over this period. In contrast, western Europe’s construction market is expected to shrink by 5% in 2025 over its 2007 pre-recession peak.

The RIBA Business Benchmarking Survey 2013-14 shows that 20% of practices are working on projects outside the UK, and 16% of total income comes from overseas projects.  For large practices (more than 50 staff), 27% of fee income is generated by international work.  The Middle East contributes 28% from international projects, South and East Asia 19%, the EU 17% and North America 15%.

The RIBA is aiming for a 30% increase in international fee turnover from £300m to £400m over six years

Scope for increasing international fee turnover is considerable. By facilitating practices’ access to international work, the RIBA is aiming for a 30% increase in international fee turnover from £300m to £400m over six years together with a doubling of practices working internationally (particularly SMEs).

The Institute’s strategy recognises that it should help to equip all practices with the knowledge, contacts and skills to trade around the world. First, it will break down trade barriers by engaging  with organisations such as the Architects Council of Europe, UIA, CAA, and other international institutes to develop standards on issues including sustainability, procurement and professional qualifications.

Secondly, we will promote our own resources globally using our collection and an international prize. We will also extend our international branch network, review membership categories, and recruit more alumni from RIBA validated schools. Finally, we will provide access to expertise and market intelligence by continuing to work with UK Trade & Investment, which runs trade missions and is developing a regional training programme for practices that want to work overseas.

We are already seeing how meetings with incoming delegations, trade missions and initiatives such as Shanghai Shop Windows, together with a presence at international conferences such as Mipim and Arcasia, are collectively delivering tangible international opportunities for our members.

This work will intensify this year. Last month we received a delegation from India, including the presidents of the Indian Institute of Architects and Council of Architecture, and launched the RIBA Chapter in Chennai, India. I have enjoyed the exchange of knowledge and ideas during these meetings, and I look forward to meeting delegations from South Korea, Oman, and China between March and June. And in June, we will be hosting the Commonwealth Association of Architects’ 50th anniversary alongside the international conference on ‘Designing City Resilience’. 

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Must-know facts for Future Leaders

The Future Leaders programme – for the next generation of practice leaders – will this year consider the industry game changers that are transforming the way architects will design, present, deliver and collaborate – from the initiation of a project and throughout the life of a building. Tickets will go on sale on 12 February. You can find out more or book at