In its latest Future Trends Survey, the Royal Institute of British Architects has predicted the possibility of a "double-dip" recession, with the situation for architects likely to worsen.
The May 2010 results of the monthly survey, set up in January 2009 to monitor business and employment trends affecting the architecture profession, highlighted predictions for a drop in workload, and the number of staff employed, as well as an increase in underemployment levels.
The number of practices expecting workload to increase dropped from 31% in April to 26% in May. There continues to be little evidence of a recovery in employment prospects for salaried architects, with more firms expecting a decrease in staff numbers, which rose from 11% in April to 16% in May. 29% of respondents also stated that they were personally underemployed in May, compared to 22% in April.
The survey revealed practices to be less optimistic about forecasted workload predictions across the private housing and commercial sectors; only 22% of practices expected private housing work to increase in May, compared to 29 % in April and 33% in March. Predictions for more work within the commercial sector also dropped slightly, with 20% of practices predicting an increase in May, compared to 21% in April. Large practices in particular are also increasingly pessimistic about future public sector workloads.
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 May 2010, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index is +4 (compared to +12 in April 2010) and the RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index is -9 (compared to -4 in April 2010).
"The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index for May 2010 is +4, down significantly from +12 in April 2010," said Adrian Dobson, RIBA Director of Practice. "Although still in positive territory, this is the third month in a row that this index has fallen, perhaps indicating that the architects' profession is likely to see a double-dip recession. Large practices continue to be the most pessimistic about future workloads, particularly concerning prospects for their public sector work (balance figure -40). The commercial sector workload forecast has remained in positive territory at +7, but private housing has a workload forecast figure of +9, but the general confidence trend in this sector is now downwards.
Anecdotal commentary focuses on difficulties in obtaining release of funding from the banks for commercial development, aggressive fee competition and great uncertainty about the effect of public sector spending cuts on the construction industry. All this is clearly impacting upon employment conditions for some salaried architects and the general morale of many in the profession."