Joint bids bolster design sector

Landscapers are collaborating with other firms to win contracts as industry workload declines.

Landscape professionals are collaborating with firms from other disciplines to win work in an increasingly competitive environment.

As the latest construction figures showed a continuing decline in work and employment prospects, garden designers and landscape architects told HW that larger firms were competing for small jobs to make up for the lack of big-budget schemes in the market.

The Federation of Masterbuilders' state of trade survey for the third quarter of 2011 showed workloads fell in every quarter since the first quarter of 2008 and the trend is expected to continue for the rest of the year.

The report revealed the strongest improvement was in the public new- build sector, where the number of firms indicating a decline fell from 50 to 39 per cent.

However, Adam White, a director at landscape architect Davies White said although work seemed to be picking up slightly, allocated budgets were only half the amount they were in previous years and larger firms were bidding for the small jobs to plug gaps where bigger schemes used to be.

"One way to face the challenge is to collaborate and create a consortium of artists, architects, surveyors and go up against the big boys together," he suggested.

"I think this will be the way forward for larger projects in the future, where consortia of specialists will get together and challenge these big multidisciplinary organisations," he added.

"We have to be really innovative and way more creative with the budgets now. It's so competitive."

With many clients holding design competitions, White said a lot of time and resources were spent preparing bids for work that would not necessarily reap rewards.

Forming a consortium would give smaller firms more chance of getting a slice of the pie, he explained.

Landscape design firm Deakin Lock's co-director Jason Lock echoed White's thoughts on collaborating and said designers should make the most of their assets.

"We are working with architects and landscape contractors and also investing in more marketing. It's a good time to look at the skills you have and see how you can use them to explore other opportunities," he added.

KeyStat

44% - Percentage of firms that reported fewer enquiries in the third quarter of 2011 (Federation of Masterbuilders)


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