Originally published in Interiors & Sources

01/29/2014

3 Tips for Working in Rising Asia

With high-end projects sprouting up all over China and India, now is a great time to explore the world of international practice. Here are a few tips for a smooth cultural assimilation.

By Robert Nieminen

 
  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2014/0214/I_0214_Web_FldNts_1.jpg

    The St. Regis Hotel in Chengdu, China, designed by DiLeonardo. According to Principal Robert Macaruso, overseas clients are now asking design firms to blend cultural viewpoints with a sense of Western timelessness. The lobby of the St. Regis uses modern sculpture to capture the city's skyline and leather to add sophistication.
    photography courtesy of dileonardo View larger

  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2014/0214/I_0214_Web_FldNts_2.jpg

    The St. Regis Hotel in Chengdu, China, designed by DiLeonardo. According to Principal Robert Macaruso, overseas clients are now asking design firms to blend cultural viewpoints with a sense of Western timelessness. The lobby of the St. Regis uses modern sculpture to capture the city's skyline and leather to add sophistication.
    photography courtesy of dileonardo View larger

  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2014/0214/I_0214_Web_FldNts_3.jpg

    The Ritz-Carlton Bangalore, designed by WATG, includes a number of Western-style amenities, including a luxury spa, a club lounge, and a rooftop helipad—thought to be the first in India.
    photography courtesy of watg View larger

  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2014/0214/I_0214_Web_FldNts_4.jpg

    The Ritz-Carlton Bangalore, designed by WATG, includes a number of Western-style amenities, including a luxury spa, a club lounge, and a rooftop helipad—thought to be the first in India.
    photography courtesy of watg View larger

use diplomacy when imposing standards
While construction standards are improving in many emerging markets, getting foreign contractors and laborers up to par with North American standards isn’t always an easy task, and design practitioners should expect some pushback.

“We’re designing to American standards around the world, and we’re designing to sustainability standards that are governed here in the U.S., but we’re working with foreign contractors and foreign labor,” explained Phillips. “So, there’s an education process that has to happen between, say, our firm and these foreign companies, to get everything built to [ASTM] standards.”

Phillips said they often get pushback from foreign contractors who already have their own material procurement methods in place, which can cause friction when those products don’t meet Western standards for quality.

“It becomes this kind of education over a couple of years [where] every single product that you can have in a building has to be analyzed to a very small degree,” he explained, “because of the quality difference between what they think are really quality materials and what we think are quality materials.”

The good news is that many developing countries are catching up to Western construction standards much more quickly than before—particularly in China, said McNamee.

“I’ve seen in the last 15 years tremendous improvements in [Chinese] construction quality and delivery. However, I think there’s still a lot to be improved,” he noted, adding that India is not as advanced as its Chinese counterpart, but quality is improving there as well.

build relationships to mitigate risk
“From an architectural perspective, there is a real risk involved in joint venturing with a foreign contractor,” explained Phillips. In order to mitigate some of those risks, he said KCCT prefers that any foreign contractor they work with enter into a joint venture with an American contractor established in the region in order to afford better legal protections.

“Some contractors overseas, they treat their designers very differently than the U.S. contractors, and how we get treated here in the U.S.,” Phillips said, even when it comes to things like receiving payment for services rendered.

“When things go wrong, that’s when you really determine how strong your partnership is,” he added.

Of course, not all risk is negative. According to Robert Macaruso, principal at DiLeonardo International, both owners and operators overseas seem to be taking more risks with their design projects these days, especially in the hospitality market.

“Everyone continues to ask us to push the limits in the approach towards food and beverage, as well as guestroom design,” he said. “A lot of our [international] clients are appreciating the importance of design and service, addressing the necessary cultural touch points, while blending in a sense of Western timelessness.”

For Macaruso, the rules of working abroad are actually pretty simple, depending upon the region in which you find yourself: “In the Middle East, listen and deliver. In India, listen harder and deliver. In China, listen harder than you’ve ever listened and over-deliver.”


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Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.

Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.

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Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
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Mitsubishi Electric’s H2i R2-Series heat pumps provide 100% heating capacity down to 0° F and simultaneous heating and cooling down to -4° F delivering year-round comfort, regardless of climate zone.

 
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