by Bradford Perkins, FAIA, Perkins Eastman Architects
International practice sounds glamorous and fun, but is it something that your firm should consider?
Overseas work can be expensive, disruptive, and a serious distraction. Some firms have even destroyed their domestic practice by diverting too much energy and too many resources to foreign work.
Since international practice is inherently riskier, why do it? Interest in foreign culture, a desire to travel, and other personal motivations can be valid justifications, but there are some common business justifications as well.
Growth. Some firms are committed to growth; they see it as a way to keep the firm challenging and profitable for the principals and staff. At some point in the development of these firms, a number of the better growth opportunities were outside of North America.
Hedge against North American economic cycles. An interest in international work has often been stimulated by an economic downturn in the United States. Few firms can shift from domestic to international work on short notice; but with planning, overseas work can be a healthy way to balance changes in domestic workload.
In addition, if one takes a long view, some projections suggest that the majority of the world's design and construction activities will shift from the developed to the developing countries over the next two decades.
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This article is excerpted from International Practice for Architects by Bradford Perkins, copyright © 2007, with permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons.