Brazil - Country Commercial Guide
Architecture, Construction and Engineering (ACE) Services

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country.  Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2022-01-22

Overview

Brazil’s construction industry is undergoing a period of increased international competition in the domestic market. The far-reaching “Operation Car Wash” corruption scandal (Lava-Jato in Portuguese) implicated a number of Brazil’s major construction companies, putting them at the center of police investigations and negatively impacting their ability to do business. As a result, there has been an opening for medium-sized companies and foreign players in the Brazilian market. Analysts project a recovery, even amidst the pandemic and a recent inflationary spike, reaching 8.99% in the period from July 2020-July 2021.

In 2020, the pandemic severely hit the construction industry in Brazil. In March 2020, the market reached its lowest activity rate in four years. To counteract this, the government issues a number of measures, including financial assistance offered by the Ministry of Finance and the banking system with the goal of issuing new credit lines for the sector. The measure is estimated to have helped retain over 1.2 million jobs and the construction of over 530,000 new residential units. Recently, demand is once again heating up in the real estate sector and the main Brazilian developers profit more than doubled from 2020 to 2021.

The Brazilian government continues to manage a number of programs that directly promote the development and construction of a wide variety of projects. In 2016, the government created the Investment Partnerships Program (Programa de Parcerias de Investimentos – PPI), which aims to increase private capital in infrastructure projects in Brazil. The purpose of the PPI is to expand and strengthen the relationship between the state and the private sector through partnership contracts (including concessions, public-private partnerships, permissions or leasing of public assets, and any other public-private arrangements that have a similar legal structure), enabling business opportunities and helping Brazil to resume growth. Another federal project is the low-income housing project “Casa Verde e Amarela” (formerly known as “Minha Casa Minha Vida”), a program launched in 2009 that has undertaken the development of 6 million housing units in the last 10 years, with more than 4 million already complete. In August 2021, though, the local press informed that the program may soon be halted due to a decrease in funding.

 Limitations on Selling U.S. Products and Services 

The U.S. Commercial Service recommends that U.S. firms with no physical presence in Brazil partner with Brazilian firms before bidding directly on projects. Foreign architectural firms with international awards or a specialized niche have been the most successful at attracting partnerships with Brazilian architectural firms and overcoming registration hurdles. Having a local office with the necessary licensing to do design work in Brazil is very advantageous as well, due to the hefty taxes levied by Brazil for importing services, including architectural services. 

Brazilian clients prefer to work with firms that have certain expertise that is normally not available on the domestic market to justify the typically higher cost of hiring foreign firms. This option works for U.S. firms looking to do business in Brazil over the long term, as starting a business in Brazil and obtaining the necessary approvals to do architectural work in the country is rarely a quick and easy process. 

Additionally, in the short to medium term, the unfavorable exchange rate for Brazilian buyers will continue to be a limitation for the importation of U.S. goods and services.

Import Requirements & Documentation 

The general rule is that any foreign company can be a partner, investor or shareholder of a Brazilian company, making the Brazilian company a subsidiary of the foreign entity. The Brazilian company will then be fully governed by Brazilian law and will have the same rights and responsibilities as any other Brazilian company. 

Opening a branch of a foreign company in Brazil can be a complicated process. This requires specific authorization from the Brazilian Ministry of Economy. A foreign company that wishes to install a local branch in Brazil will have to send a formal request to the ministry where the National Department of Trade Registration, known as DNRC, will evaluate the request. 

It is important to emphasize that all companies formed in Brazil need a unique physical address. A virtual address is not accepted as a fiscal address. For operations where there are several companies registered at the same office address, it is common to specify which room each company is registered to, as this makes each address unique for fiscal purposes. 

Selling to the Government 

In the case of engineering, architecture or construction services for government projects (mostly infrastructure projects), public tenders are publicized which are usually open to foreign companies. The Brazilian Government recently adopted the new Public Procurement Law which eases the participation of foreign bidders, though it is still recommended that any foreign firm looking to participate in a public tender have some form of local presence, however limited it may be. 

Distribution & Sales Channels 

As in most other industry sectors, foreign service providers must either establish themselves in the country or have a local representative to be successful in Brazil, as explained above. 

Pricing 

Price is a critical factor in purchase decisions, particularly in public bidding programs.  Leading Sub-Sectors 

Leading sectors in the ACE industry include: 

  • Infrastructure Projects (ports, airports, railways, highways) 
  • Urban Planning 
  • Real Estate: new or retrofit 
  • Industrial: new or retrofitted plants 
  • Hospitality (new hotels, retrofit of existing hotels, transformation of residential buildings into hotels) 
  • Health Sectors (new hospitals and upgrades to existing hospitals) 
  • Education 
  • HVAC 
  • Furniture design 
  • Drywall technologies 
  • Lighting (residential, commercial, industrial, urban) 
  • Sports venue design and equipment 
  • Building Information Modeling (BIM) process 
  • Landscaping 
  • Constructechs and Proptechs

Opportunities 

In a country of over 200 million people spread over 27 states, there are numerous opportunities waiting to be explored by those eager to embrace new challenges and partner with creative and entrepreneurial Brazilians. With respect to the architecture, construction and engineering (ACE) sectors, green and sustainable businesses are gaining more attention. This includes legacy opportunities in several cities, such as large infrastructure projects. The government is seeking to increase U.S. private sector participation in infrastructure projects, with a confirmed federal pipeline of projects valued at more than US$ 1 billion for ports, US$ 14 billion in rail, US$ 2.5 billion in airports, and US$ 36 billion in highways. There are also projects at the state and municipal levels, in areas such as sanitation. 

An area that is booming in the ACE sector is construction technology, or Construtech as it is often called in Brazil. Startups are investing in areas such as field management, equipment and construction materials marketplaces, and applications in mobile and cloud technologies, robotics, and software for the construction industry. Also startups related to real estate (protects) are a growing market. In August 2021, in Brazil, there are already over 830 construct and proptech firms.

It is recommended that new projects contain sustainable or “green” content, according to LEED, AQUA and other certification programs. According to the Brazilian Green Building Council, Brazil ranks fifth in LEED registrations worldwide, with over 2 millon² certified buildings, trailing only the United States, China, Canada and India. 

Resources 

  • The Brazilian Council for Architecture and Urbanism (CAU)
  • The Brazilian Association of Architecture Firms (ASBEA)
  • The Federal Council for Engineering and Agronomy (CONFEA)
  • The Brazilian Association of Architectural and Consulting Engineering Companies (SINAENCO)
  • The Brazilian Association of Engineering Consultants (ABCE)
  • The Brazilian Green Building Council (GBC Brasil)
  • Ministry of Infrastructure – Concession projects

 Contact Information 

For more information, please contact the US Commercial Service Industry Specialist at Patrick.Levy@trade.gov