The latest results from the Royal Institute of British Architects' (RIBA) Future Trends Survey reveal that architecture practices are growing in confidence about their future work prospects.
In the February 2011 results, the number of practices expecting their workload to increase rose 5% from 27% in January to 32% in February, and those practices expecting workloads to drop fell to 25%. Employment prospects for salaried architects remained constant, with 7% of architects expecting an increase in staff. The number of practices expecting staff levels to drop remained constant at 15%. Levels of underemployment dropped for the first time since November from 29% to 25%.
In terms of sector predictions, the commercial sector demonstrated the strongest growth in confidence for workload prospects, whilst the private housing and public sector painted a mixed picture. The number of practices expecting commercial sector workload to grow rose from 17% in January to 22% in February; the number of practices expecting workload to drop in this sector fell modestly to 18%, compared to 19% last month.
10% of practices expected a rise in public sector work in January compared to 5% in January, although 33% of practices expected workload to drop compared to 31% in January. The private housing sector saw a drop in figures, with 25% of practices predicting an increase in work, compared to 28% in January; the number expecting their workload to drop fell from 17% in January to 15% in January.
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 2011, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index is +7 (compared to +1 in January 2010) and the RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index remains at -8.
"For the third consecutive month, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index has increased in February 2010 to +7, up from a balance figure of +1 in January 2011," said Adrian Dobson, RIBA Director of Practice. "Larger practices (50+ staff) in particular appear to be growing in confidence about their future work prospects, returning a balance figure of +40 in February 2011 compared with +14 in January 2011. Smaller practices (1 - 10 staff) also remain positive overall with a balance figure of +7 this month. Medium sized practices (11 -50 staff) are least confident about future workloads (balance figure -3). In terms of geographical analysis, Northern Ireland remains the least optimistic part of the United Kingdom with a balance figure of -50 for the future workload prediction, whilst confidence levels are highest in London (balance figure +31)
The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index for February 2011 is -8, and illustrates that despite the recent sustained improvement in predictions for future workloads overall confidence levels are still not sufficient to make practices feel comfortable about increasing their staffing levels. This situation applies across all sizes of practice. At present practices generally seem unwilling to take on additional staff even on a temporary basis.
Given a slow recovery in the UK, many practices are looking abroad for medium term growth potential. However, the proportion of work in progress which is on overseas projects has actually been falling amongst the practices in our survey. It is now 3%, compared with 9% when we started the RIBA Future Trends survey in January 2009, and this must be of concern if international work is to form a significant component of future workloads."