The latest results of the Royal Institute of British Architects' (RIBA) Future Trends Survey reveal that practices in London are expecting their workloads to increase over the next three months, supported by increased activity within the commercial sector, and growth in high end residential work. However, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index has fallen, indicating that practices across the country continue to exhibit low levels of confidence about their future work.
The number of practices expecting workload to decline rose from 28% in October to 26% in November, representing an 8% rise. Employment prospects for salaried architects dropped back to September levels, with only 5% of architects expecting an increase in staff in November, compared to 8% in October. The number of practices expecting staff levels to drop grew minimally from 16% in October to 17% in November. Levels of underemployment saw a small 2% increase, with 29% of architects stating they were underemployed in November, compared to 27% in October.
There were moderate changes to all sector forecasts this month. Private housing demonstrated a 5% loss in confidence, with 22% of architects expecting workload to drop in November, compared to 17% in October; only 19% of architects expected an increase in workload, compared to 21% in October. The commercial sector demonstrated a modest increase in confidence, with 18% of architects predicted a rise in commercial work, increasing 5% from 17% in October. Practices predicting an increase in public sector work remained constant at 6% in November, and the number expecting workload to drop fell from 39% in October to 37% in November.
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 November 2010, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index is -15 (compared to -6 in October 2010) and the RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index is -12 (compared to -8 in October 2010).
"The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index has fallen back to a level of -15. Small and medium size practices remain more optimistic about their overall workload prospects in the next quarter than larger practices," said Adrian Dobson, RIBA Director of Practice.
"In terms of geographical analysis, practices based in Scotland and Northern Ireland continue to exhibit low levels of confidence about future work and future staffing levels. Practices in London expect their workloads to increase over the coming three months (balance figure +4) and to employ more staff overall during the next quarter, providing a further indication that it is the capital that is beginning to see the first signs of a possible recovery in overall work levels.
Anecdotal commentary from practices this month once again illustrates the extreme variability of the current market for architects' services. Whilst a number of practices continue to report fierce fee competition and lack of an adequate funding pipeline, and even further job losses, others in the bespoke housing, conservation and commercial sectors are decidedly more optimistic, and some report that they are now actively recruiting new staff. There remains great uncertainty about the impact of the public sector spending review, and we are likely to see some volatility in the results of the RIBA Future Trends Survey over the coming months until some of these uncertainties are ironed out."