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UK architects gaining more business from overseas development projects

A new survey reveals that some 60% of contracts cold come from foreign markets next year and of those 20% will come from the Middle East.

Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia are mentioned as the property markets likely to provide the most new business, the survey by The Architects' Journal.

It found that most UK based architects no longer see Europe as the main source of future income. Overseas contracts currently account for around £1.4 billion of income and that is expected to grow with overseas earnings already exceeding domestic fees.

Europe will still remain an important market with around 18% of business likely to come from Western Europe and 14% from Eastern Europe. Other international markets of note where growth potential is expected include Africa, and especially North African countries such as Libya and Morocco. African contracts leapt from a total of 4% in 2008 to 7% in 2009, with further growth anticipated.

A prime example of how architects are finding more contracts abroad is London based Foster & Partners. 'We are working in 50 countries and 85% of our work is international,' said Mouzhan Majidi. He estimated that around 35% of their fees come from the Middle East, mostly Abu Dhabi.

Other UK practices have reported similar overseas growth. BDP said its overseas architectural business income increased from £17.9 million in 2007 to £28.6 million in 2008. Atkins reported foreign business growth 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,' said Kieran Long, Editor-in-Chief of The Architects' Journal.

According to the survey 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 survey is regarded as 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.