Twenty years ago, New York-area firms working overseas were drawing plans by hand and sending them across the world by courier. And “instant” communication was by fax and telephone, says Eugene Kohn, chairman of Kohn Pedersen Fox, a New York-based architect that first took its practice abroad in the late 1980s.
But today, working globally is a whole new ball game. Mobile communications, Web-driven databases, e-mail, digital photography, file transferring, scanning, video conferencing, and other advancements have transformed not only how often, how fast, and how effectively professionals can communicate with colleagues, partners, and clients, but also has transformed the whole work process.
“We can work 24 hours a day on a project, transferring the tasks to each office around the world and keeping it going,” Kohn says.
At New York-based Perkins Eastman, architects and staff in all of its offices around the world contribute to proposals, brochures, schedules, and plans, says Jonathan Stark, principal and executive director at the architectural firm. For instance, the New York marketing team will e-mail a proposal draft to Dubai, where it is prepared for local market use and then transmitted to the Saudi Arabia field office, where it is printed out for an associate to deliver it by hand to the ministry handling the project bid. “The technology has really helped the profession to go global,” he adds.
George Leventis, president of the international arm of New Jersey-based Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, a geotechnical engineer, recounts how one staffer scouting a project location 25 mi into the Abu Dhabi desert recently took a site picture, and New York executives were reviewing it two minutes later.
“You can talk to the guy on a drilling rig via Skype and see what he sees,” he adds.