Lessons learnt in LatAm

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After five years of operating in Latin America, our network of clients and collaborators has grown considerably and so has our portfolio of projects. This week, we’re attending Expo Real Estate Chile and we’re looking forward to connecting with some of the industry’s top innovators to discuss evolving trends in the LatAm market, and how we can use our international knowledge to help support this growing market.

We interviewed director, Eva Diego, about her experience in LatAm…

Hyphen works for many international brands across the world, what’s different about working in the LatAm region?

Construction of large-scale projects and infrastructure is similar, but medium-to-small scale projects tend to involve a higher degree of man hours compared to elsewhere.

There is a different pace to the way business is made, which also influences the speed at which projects are developed and built. Decisions are often made in the short-term and this can result in longer-term projects being slower to develop. There are of course exceptions to this rule, depending on the country and sector.

Roles within the design and construction process also differ from country to country.

As an architect, what are the main differences that you have experienced working in different countries across LatAm?

Although there are always similarities, there are also specifics about the design and construction process that make each country different.

  • In Chile, site management is typically a role within the General Contractor team and consultants are asked to answer questions and resolve conflicts very quickly. A specific role for project management, called ITO (Technical Site Inspection), is exclusive to Chile’s process.
  • Mexico has a similar approach to the US, in both design and construction, and the commercial treaty ensures high availability of local suppliers across the whole of Mexico. The architectural design is quite detailed, whereas MEP design is usually developed up to schematic design then detailed by the General Contractor (as they have ownership on site).
  • In Uruguay and Ecuador, it’s not unusual to procure through design and build contracts, which are also very popular in the UK, but less so, in southern European countries, like Spain or Italy, due to legislation on responsibility of consultants.
  • In Brazil, the high tax on imports has led to a boost in well-developed industry manufacturers, who distribute quality products across LatAm.

In your experience, what are the biggest challenges that international companies and developers experience when working in LatAm?

As a developing region with good long-term prospects and increasing stability, key challenges for international companies include:

  • Understanding local regulations and the lead times for permitting – there is a huge variety depending on project type and location.
  • Good communication with technical teams – for example, managing timescales, budgets or overall quality whilst also providing the necessary reporting that international companies require.
  • Sourcing local products that match their specifications and building good procurement processes with companies that best suit their needs.
  • Finding consultants with a specific area of expertise can be more time consuming and expensive in LatAm than elsewhere.

What innovations do you anticipate will define the LatAm real estate market in the future?

Logistics is key to the region because of its immense geography; ongoing digital transformation in all industries needs to be supported by a far-reaching and efficient supply chain network.

Looking ahead, we can expect to see the implementation of new (and more efficient) processes, as well as new technology for design, construction and asset management – all of which are vital for the sustainable growth of the real estate sector.


Recent regulatory changes in Chile have boosted the use of BIM on public sector projects. How does BIM enable commercial developers to be more efficient across their portfolio?

It allows full coordination of the different agents at the pre-construction stage, but also in many other fields. For example, through implementation of client-specific information prior to design start, Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie) codes, accurate bills of quantities, as well as efficient procurement and post-construction building management.

For us, as architects, it can increase efficiency and improve quality by automating some parts of the design process. Collaborative platforms allow integrated inputs and optimum control by different agents, including the developer’s team.

What are the key things that Hyphen has learnt from working with developers in Europe that could be applied in LatAm?

In summary:

  1. The efficiencies that can be gained throughout the design and construction process by using BIM.
  2. The need to update the traditional project team and contractual terms to new, more collaborative ways of working (to ensure a constant flow of communication between teams involved).
  3. A more proactive approach to problem solving (rather than reacting to issues in real-time).
  4. A more holistic approach to design and sustainability.


And vice-versa, what can European brands / developers learn from LatAm?

The digital / tech mindset. Technology integration in day-to-day activities is especially strong in LatAm so, in a way, there has been a leap forward in the way people use technology.

The curiosity to know what is going on elsewhere in the world. Europe, Asia and the US can sometimes be very self-centred and forget how important it is to observe and learn about what others are doing, as this can help with their own development.


Connect with Eva and Francisco, Santiago office head at Expo Real Estate Chile, on LinkedIn Eva Diego & Francisco Terrero