Engineer to open larger officer in New York as it moves to reduce dependence on UK market

Consultant engineer Buro Happold is planning to expand its presence in the USA as part of a strategy of diversifying its workload.

The firm expects to double its US workforce to 120 when it moves to a bigger offices in New York in March. It is also looking at sites for a second office elsewhere in the country.

Gavin Thompson, who took over as managing director from Padraic Kelly last month, wants to commit resources to overseas markets after admitting that Buro Happold has become overdependent on its UK work.

Thompson said: "I don't want us to have as great a dependence on UK markets as we have. We are putting a strategy in place to change that situation substantially within the next five years."

Overseas clients used to account for 40% of the engineer's work, but this proportion has fallen to about 16% in recent years. Thompson aims to increase it to 30% in the next five years, led by a push in the USA.

The firm has chosen to spearhead its drive in the States to capitalise on a rise in workload based on its expertise in sustainable design.

Thompson said: "We are increasingly seeing a demand in the USA for buildings that have aspirations to be different, with clients wanting to implement an environmental agenda. It will not be long before we open another US office, and we are evaluating the US regions."

Buro Happold has recently worked on the Genzyme headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts, which is one of a handful of buildings in the USA to have been awarded the platinum Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design rating, the US equivalent of BREAM. It is also working on the Dallas opera house and the Institute of Peace in Las Vegas, designed by Foster and Partners.

Buro Happold is looking to strengthen its presence in its other key overseas market, the Middle East. The firm has a strong presence in Dubai, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Thompson said the company was committed to Saudi Arabia, but admitted that it was having to review contracts because of the implications of rising security costs in the region.

Last year Buro Happold generated £52m in fees. The company would not disclose its profit.

Buro Happold at a glance

  • Fee income (to 30 April 2005) £52m
  • Number of staff 848
  • HQ London
  • Overseas offices Berlin, Dubai, Dublin, New York, Riyadh, Warsaw
  • Services Building, infrastructure, environmental