The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) today announced the March 2009 results of its monthly Future Trends Survey, marking the end of the first quarter monitoring business and employment trends affecting the architects' profession.
Overall there were minimal changes from last month's data concerning workloads; 44 per cent of all respondents expected their workloads to decline over the next three months, compared to 46 per cent in February. Only 13 per cent predicted an increase and 43 per cent believed they would stay the same. More larger practices were predicting a reduced workload (50 per cent over the next three months, compared to 44 per cent in February).
Since the survey commenced in January 2009 there has been a steady increase in the number of individual respondents indicating that lack of work has lead to them personally being under-employed in the current month; this figure now stands at 32 per cent, up from 21 per cent in January 2009. In terms of sectors, the proportion of participants predicting that workloads across the private housing, commercial, and public sectors would stay the same were 54 per cent, 52 per cent and 56 per cent respectively, compared to 46 per cent, 41 per cent and 55 per cent respectively in February.
In terms of redundancies and staff retention, 67 per cent of all practices expected staff levels to remain constant over the next three months, compared to 62 per cent in February, suggesting a modest improvement for salaried architects' employment prospects. The number of practices expecting staff numbers to be cut also decreased from 35 per cent in February to 31 per cent in March.
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 March 2009, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index is -31 (compared to -30 in February 2009) and the RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index is -29 (compared to -32 in February 2009).
"The March Future Trends Survey marks the end of the first quarter of the RIBA monitoring trends in the profession," said Adrian Dobson, Director of Practice. "The Government has consistently indicated that high value professional services in the creative industries are a key target for future UK export growth in trade in services. The Future Trends Survey however currently reveals a worrying decline in the proportion of work coming from projects based overseas, which has fallen from 9% in January 2009 to 5% in March 2009. A decline in this work base, coupled with loss of capacity in the profession through job losses, could threaten the capability of the UK architects' profession to play its part in this vital export sector going forward. Practices are also indicating that levels of niche commissions (such as residential care homes, conservation and small-scale domestic projects) are holding up well, alongside specialist services which appear to be another area of opportunity for architects.
Since the survey commenced in January 2009 there has been a steady increase in the number of individual respondents indicating that lack of work has lead to them personally being under-employed in the current month; this figure now stands at 32%, up from 21% in January. Large practices are currently the most pessimistic about their ability to maintain current permanent staffing levels, indicating that further staffing reductions are regrettably likely to occur in the large practice sector in the coming quarter."