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Opportunities in structures

NEWS ANALYSIS: USA

In structural engineering, UK based consultants are winning more work as clients increasingly use foreign, especially European, architects.

Having worked with many of these architects before, such firms have the advantage that in the US structural engineers are usually appointed by architects rather than the client.

The trend is starting to break down the traditional use of many specialist consultants in the design of buildings. Arup, for example, has been able to sell a more multidisciplinary approach combining structural engineering with seismic, acoustic and mechanical and electrical disciplines.

Arup's US boss Tony Fitzpatrick believes that spending time integrating different disciplines can result in more cost effective building designs.

New York based Arup USA chairman Raymond Crane adds:

'As structural engineers - and it may be an Arup thing - we always take a much broader view of what a problem is and so always try to look at the overall picture.'

He remembers working on a project in Akron, Ohio, where Arup's structures team surprised other members of the project team by asking questions about the geotechnics on the job.

Arup believes its emphasis on what Fitzpatrick describes as a multi disciplined 'integrated technology' approach gives it an edge over the traditional, compartmentalised approach to structures adopted by many US consultants. But he has no doubt that it is a temporary edge as the American competition will soon catch onto the idea.

WS Atkins has brought a more integrated approach to its Oklahoma-based subsidiary Benham, which it bought in 2000.

Before the acquisition, Benham was a collection of regionally based companies which tended to work in relative isolation. Since then the individual businesses have been rebranded under the Benham name and been encouraged to cross sell between regions and disciplines.

'There aren't any obvious skills we can take to them, but we did find that they didn't do as much cross selling, ' says WS Atkins director Richard Cuthbert.

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