The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has published the latest results of the monthly Future Trends Survey for July 2011. The number of practices expecting more work in July saw a minimal rise from 26% in June to 27% in July, whilst those expecting a drop in workload remained constant at 22%.
The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index remains unchanged at -3 in July 2011, with 12% of practices expecting staff levels to drop (compared to 11% in June) and 9% expecting an increase (compared to 8% in June). 27% of architects reported that they have personally been under-employed in July 2011, a 3% rise from 24% in June 2011.
The sector forecasts remain virtually unchanged this month: the private housing sector forecast (balance figure +5) fell back slightly, but remains the most positive, with 22% of practices expecting work levels to rise, compared to 21% in June. Practices expecting workload to remain constant fell from 64% in June to 61% in July. The commercial sector forecast fell marginally to -1 in July 2011 from zero in June 2011, and the number of practices expecting workload to remain constant fell from 69% in June to 68% in July. 17% of practices predicted less commercial work, compared to 16% in June. The outlook for the public sector workload remains the most pessimistic, with no change to the balance figure of -23. In July, 30% of practices expected a fall in workload, compared to 27% in June; only 6% expected an increase in workload, compared to 4% in June.
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 July 2011, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index is +5 (compared to +4 in June), and the RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index remains unchanged at -3 in July.
"The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index is unchanged at -3 in July 2011, and indicates that there is unlikely to be any significant short-term improvement in permanent employment prospects for salaried architects," said Adrian Dobson, RIBA Director of Practice. "Practices based in London (balance figure +13) and the South of England (balance figure +16) are the most optimistic about growth in workloads over the next quarter, whilst practices in Scotland (balance figure -6), Northern Ireland (balance figure -50) and the Midlands and East Anglia (balance figure -13) all returned negative forecasts. Larger practices (51+ staff) are now the most confident that they will see an increase in workloads during the coming months (balance figure of +33). They anticipate this growth to occur in the private housing and commercial sectors. Medium-sized practices (11 - 50 staff) are also now predicting some growth in the commercial sector. No practice size category currently perceives immediate growth opportunities in the community and public sectors.
In their anecdotal comments, our practices continue to report intense fee competition with consequent continuing downward pressure on profit and salary levels. The bespoke housing market generally appears to continue to be the sector with the most solid work levels, encompassing high value schemes for high net worth individuals, as well as more general domestic extension and refurbishment works as homeowners opt to improve rather than move in a difficult residential sales market. Many practices are experiencing a significant impact from public sector capital spending cuts, and smaller practices report that it remains very challenging for them to overcome obstacles to access to public sector procurement programmes in general."