The Royal Institute of British Architects announced the February 2009 results of its monthly Future Trends Survey, demonstrating further evidence of a decreasing workload for architects.
46 per cent of all respondents expected their workloads to decline over the next three months, compared to 39 per cent last month; only 16 per cent predicted an increase and 39 per cent believed they would stay the same. As in January's survey results, the Public Sector remained the top area that practices aimed to procure work from, although there was an evident lack of optimism compared to last month's figures. 55 per cent of practices expected Public Sector work to stay the same (compared to 60 per cent last month) and only 20 per cent predicted an increase (compared to 27 per cent last month). The most significant drop in confidence was amongst those practices with commercial workloads; 52 per cent predicted a decrease in workload compared to 44 per cent in the January results.
In terms of redundancies and staff retention, 62 per cent of all practices expected staff levels to remain constant over the next three months, compared to 72 per cent in January, suggesting a worsening outlook for salaried architects' employment prospects. There is a rise in the number of practices expecting staff numbers to be cut, increasing from 24 per cent in January to 35 per cent in February. The picture also appears to have improved slightly for smaller practices, particularly sole practitioners, who are now less likely to be under employed (33 per cent) compared to 47 per cent in January. Large practices are consistently busier than small practices, with only 17 per cent reporting that they were still underemployed.
The statistical analysis of the survey enables the RIBA to regularly report on two key confidence tracking indices relating to future workloads and staffing levels. For February 2009, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index is -30 (compared to - 29 in January 2009) and the RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index is -32 (compared to -20 in January 2009).
"The latest results from the RIBA Future Trends survey paint a picture of an architects' profession which is now very cautious about future workloads," said Adrian Dobson, RIBA Director of Practice, in response to the latest results. "This is reflected most strikingly in the reduction in the RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index to -32. This caution is shared across all practice sizes, and practices are faced with the difficult balance of controlling costs and maintaining cash flow, whilst retaining the skills and resources to assure service levels and support future activity. At the present time only practices in the South of England (not including London) are confident that they will be able to maintain their current permanent staffing levels. The RIBA is focusing its CPD provision on assisting architects to respond to the current economic environment by strengthening and diversifying their skills base.
Whilst public sector work was forecast to be stronger than in the housing and commercial sectors, the practices in our survey are no longer predicting an overall increase in public sector workload for architects, perhaps reflecting a perception that the government is struggling to accelerate the various major public sector capital programmes. The recent announcement by the Government of additional funding sources to support existing PFI schemes in achieving financial close is very positive, but further action will be required to achieve the Government's ambitions for accelerated capital spending to support the economy. The RIBA continues to lobby strongly for more direct exchequer funding for capital projects."