The Royal Institute of British Architects announced the October results of its monthly Future Trends Survey, which was established in January 2009 to monitor business and employment trends affecting the architecture profession.
The trends emanating from this months survey reveal modest changes to the September results, both in terms of workload prediction and staffing. More practices predicted an increase in workload, (31 per cent in October, compared to 33 per cent in September), although this indicator has been quite volatile over the last quarter and does not represent a sustained trend of confidence growth. The number of practices predicting a decline in workload remained constant at 16 per cent, in addition to levels of underemployment (30 per cent of practices stated they were underemployed in October, and 29 per cent in September).
Both public and commercial work sectors presented improvements with predicted increases in workloads; 19 per cent of practices expected public sector work to increase (growing from 17 per cent in September), and 18 per cent predicted more commercial work, compared to 16 per cent in September. In October, only 28 per cent of practices expected more private housing work, which was a further drop of 4 per cent from the September figures (32 per cent).
Changes in predictions for staff retention also reflected tentative improvements, with more practices predicting an increase in staff (7 per cent in October, compared to 5 per cent in September), however those expecting a decrease remained constant at 13 per cent. The number of women employed in practice also remained constant at 21 per cent.
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 October 2009, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index is +15 (compared to +17 in September 2009) and the RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index is -6 (compared to -8 in September 2009).
"The figures for October reveal little change from September, reinforcing our suggestion last month that practices do not yet appear to be sufficiently confident of an improvement in prospects to return to recruitment on any significant scale," said Adrian Dobson , RIBA Director of Practice.
"Practices based in the North of England and Northern Ireland are least optimistic about a growth in workloads in the next quarter. In terms of sector predictions the private housing sector continued to show the most confidence of growth in workloads (+16), but our practices are not predicting any growth in public sector commissions (0). For the first time the prediction for the commercial sector is now showing a positive balance (+7). Medium-sized practices (employing between 10 and 50 staff) are the most likely to be predicting growth in commercial work, and it is this sector which is now most confident in general about a return to growth.
The practices in our survey report that there workload is currently at 75 per cent of the levels twelve months ago, suggesting that architects have on average seen a one quarter reduction in work in progress over the past year; a figure which is supported by other economic indicators for the profession, including turnover figures declared on professional indemnity insurance renewal forms. There does not at present appear to be any respite for practices via overseas commissions, with the proportion of work coming from projects abroad having now fallen from 9 per cent in January 2009 to 3 per cent in October 2009."