Economic buoyancy in Asia and the emergence of strong new markets have given the regional construction industry an incredible boost.
This momentum is in turn providing brighter career prospects for Hong Kong architects, says Dennis Lau, chairman & managing director of Dennis Lau & Ng Chun Man Architects & Engineers (H.K.) Ltd (DLN).
"Prior to 1997, construction projects for Hong Kong architectural firms were mainly confined to the territory. However, as the economies in China and those all over Asia have blossomed, demand for quality architectural firms has increased dramatically," says Mr Lau, who is also chairman of the Association of Architectural Practices.
He points out that more than 60 per cent of architectural firms in Hong Kong have successfully developed their businesses on the mainland, while the Middle East, India, eastern Europe, Vietnam and Thailand have also recently emerged as economic titans with burgeoning construction demands. The impact of political change in Taiwan and North Korea, Mr Lau predicts, will open the door to ever more construction possibilities, bringing new business to the industry and creating formidable career opportunities.
Filling the gap
Mr Lau reveals that growth in the industry has caused a dire shortage of architects. As a result, local architectural firms are actively seeking more expatriates including mainland professionals to satisfy continuous growth.
For Hong Kong in particular, the shortfall is presently around 300 architects. He has urged the government to increase the number of available architectural places at universities and also relax and streamline immigration policies to entice larger numbers of overseas professionals to work in Hong Kong so as to ease the manpower shortage problem. Without these measures, Hong Kong may soon lose its edge in the industry and relinquish its superlative status as a leading architectural hub in Asia.
Regarding the future, Mr Lau believes Hong Kong will continue to leverage on the comparative advantage it already enjoys due to its extensive experience in high-rise construction and the global reputation and professional standards of its architects. New regional opportunities are ripe for seizure because Hong Kong architects have good languages skills, an international perspective and design creativity which sets them apart from their competitors. Indeed, to cope with expected regional demand, DLN has set up an office in the UAE and plans for India and Vietnam offices are in the pipeline.
Nevertheless, Mr Lau adds that the construction industry will face dynamic challenges such as specific national legal frameworks when building infrastructure in different countries and rapid changes in building materials which render work procedures more sophisticated.
DLN offers professional consultancy services which cover the architectural, planning, project management, interior design and landscaping aspects of building development. The firm has been involved in a diversified range of building projects encompassing commercial, residential, retail, office, institutional and industrial areas. It has projects across mainland China cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Fu Zhou, Dai Lin, Zhongshan, Guangzhou, Guilin, Shenzhen, Baotou, Hefei, Hangzhou, Zhuhai, Chongqing, Tainjin, Qingdao, Jiangsu, Huangshan, Chengdu, Xian, Huizhou, Nanjing, Wuhan, Yixing, Hohhot and Macau. DLN also has projects in Kuala Lumpur, Taipei, South Korea, Singapore, the Philippines, Ukraine, Middle East and North Korea.
Mr Lau encourages practitioners interested in the industry to seek overseas exposure as early as possible, obtain solid and practical work experience and update professional knowledge regularly.
DLN plans to increase the number of staff substantially to meet market growth. Mr Lau says the company is also hiring overseas expatriates who can provide alternative perspectives in the industry. In addition to architects, graphic designers, architectural draftsmen, marketing and business development professionals are also target recruits.
In addition to experience and qualifications, DLN also considers candidates who can demonstrate a passion in the industry and willingness to take up challenges through expanding professional capacity.
He admits that the negative side of rapid industrial expansion is accelerated staff turnover, and this problem currently plagues most local architectural firms. As such, DLN has devised specific initiatives such as higher remuneration packages, bonus incentives and a five-day week policy. This added to the array of comprehensive training programmes on offer and overseas job opportunities makes DLN an excellent career choice for architects looking to build a successful and lucrative career.