British consultants and design firms are following a trend set by the insurance and banking industries and outsourcing work to low-cost overseas operators
Consulting engineer Whitbybird, architect CZWG, consultant EC Harris and engineer Techniker have all outsourced work to offices abroad.

The trend could herald a restructuring of the industry as more and more work is sent overseas.

Richard Saxon, vice president of the RIBA practice committee, said outsourcing would change the way architects operate in the UK. He said: "Firms are reducing the number of technicians they employ while increasing the number of front-end [concept] architects and those with management experience."

The RIBA is in favour of UK architects outsourcing work in this way as it said it can save money. However, the British Institute of Architectural Technicians has warned that it could lead to job losses in the UK. In a statement to Building, the institute said it had "concerns about the concept of outsourcing overseas and about issues relating to employment".

Outsourcing saves us building up a huge production outfit in a volatile market

Nick Campbell, founder, CZWG

Joe Woolf, founder and chief executive of outsource provider Atlas Industries, based in Vietnam, said that the UK outsourcing market was potentially worth "hundreds of million pounds a year".

Architect CZWG sends its architectural detail design work to an outsource provider in South Africa. Founding partner Nick Campbell said: "It saves us building up a huge production outfit in a volatile market, when it is difficult to recruit skilled labour in the UK."

Whitbybird outsources work to South Africa and is in discussion with an outsource provider in India. EC Harris has an outsource office in Jakarta in Indonesia to save money on bills of quantities.