Cities are fundamentally economic in nature and exist for the purposes of trade and commerce. For this reason, Economics is a core specialism within Buro Happold’s Cities business

Our key interest is in promoting the most sustainable, value-adding forms of economic activity across a diversity of urban areas, of different scales and in numerous locations. We work at all scales, from regions, to city districts, to individual real estate developments and infrastructure components. Consulting across two broad areas detailed below.

Economic Development

Recent crises, affecting many parts of the world, have created structural shifts in the way individual economies behave. Globalisation and evolving trade patterns present ongoing challenges

For mature, developed economies there is a need to manage change effectively – decline as well as expansion – in a way that yields sustainable opportunity and capitalises on the latest technologies. In areas of rapid economic and population growth, the transition to a sophisticated, knowledge-driven economy can be unpredictable. In these places, new prosperity often occurs inconsistently across communities. Economic development needs to impact positively everywhere without adverse environmental, social or climactic consequences and this requires a sound, future-facing strategy.

We know that cities, towns and other urban environments function best when they are both spatially and economically interconnected. Too often, however, the spatial configuration of places is not based on sound economic rationale or good commercial positioning. Our work helps to ensure that these mistakes are not made; that economic growth and change happen sustainably, in a way that can be managed well by both public and private stakeholders and with commercial resilience built in.

Our professional knowledge and strong academic links are matched by our genuine passion and interest in making economies function for the betterment of diverse urban communities. Our analysis and strategic advice seeks to maximise city competitiveness, sector specialisation, economic inclusion, entrepreneurship, city branding and rapid digital technology adaptation.

Our economic development services include:


For more information please contact Adarsh Varma.

  • Economic analysis & data modelling
    Detailed socio-economic analysis and market assessment, demographic forecasting, geographic information systems (GIS), economic land-use modelling
  • Economic development strategy
    Area-wide economic strategy, economic concept development and performance metrics, labour market and skills strategy, inward investment
  • Industrial strategy & clusters
    Industry-sector analysis, sector selection, targeting and growth strategies, cluster strategies, investment propositions
  • Business case & economic appraisal
    Business case-making and formulation, business modelling, benefits appraisal and realisation, UK Treasury ‘Green Book’ appraisal, cost-benefit analysis
  • Economic impact assessment
    Identification of direct, indirect and induced impacts of development proposals, displacement and multiplier effects, socio-cultural impacts
  • Urban regeneration & revitalization
    Action plans to align physical and economic urban change, economic re-positioning of cities and districts, maximising local community impacts of urban change

The modern urban environment

Our public sector clients include municipal authorities, development banks and national governments. We support them to make urban environments more competitive, more economically inclusive and fully capable of developing clear industrial strengths, high-value clusters and technology-enabled specialisation.

We have particular expertise in industrial and sector-based strategy, especially in the context of special economic zones, ports, airports and rail networks. We have supported the governments of Kuwait, Qatar, South Africa and Lesotho with their industrial zone programmes and have helped facilitate the development of New York City’s highly specialised life sciences industry.

Creating a sound business case

We work closely with the private sector to construct a sound business case for investment – whether it be for real estate, or economic infrastructure such as highways, bridges, tunnels, rail systems or climate change mitigation. We also test the commercial validity of development proposals, assessing the future level of demand needed to support investment in new and existing infrastructure. Our clients include infrastructure funders and investors, as well as major developers. We work closely with them to help provide the due diligence necessary to support their strategic, long-term investments.

From vision to prosperity

Our work ranges from creating economic visions and strategies driving places towards greater prosperity, all the way down to detailed benefit appraisal for individual elements of a city’s infrastructure platform. We ensure that infrastructure is planned to support a clear, quantifiable economic vision.

We work at all scales, deploying our professional skills to create synergies between government, industry, funders, communities and technologies, to make sure that cities can work to their competitive advantages and that investments can be phased as logically as possible.

Talk to Us

Our policies and terms outline the information we collect about you, and how we process your personal information, please read them to be fully informed. We also use cookies on our website to provide you with a better experience. By continuing to use this site, without changing your settings, you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.

Continue Close