The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Future Trends Survey for September 2011 shows that confidence about overall workloads remains fragile. The number of practices expecting more work dropped from the previous month. This represents a fall in the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index at -10, down from +2 in August.
The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index also fell in September, down from -3 in August 2011 to -7. Fifteen per cent of practices expected staff levels to drop, although the number expecting an increase rose slightly. Large practices - those with more than 51 staff - are more inclined to feel able to increase permanent staffing levels over the next quarter than small and medium-sized practices.
The number of architects reporting that they personally had been underemployed during September increased.
Sector forecasts also reflect the challenging conditions facing the profession: 15 per cent of practices expected work levels to grow in the private housing sector and practices, down from August, and practices expecting workloads to decrease in this sector rose to 21 per cent.
Expectation of work in the commercial sector also fell: 21 per cent of practices predicted a decrease, although the number predicting growth remained constant at 16 per cent. The outlook for the public sector workload remained unchanged from August: 29 per cent of practices expected a fall in workload, with 5 per cent predicting an increase.
The statistical analysis of the survey enables the RIBA to track regularly two key indices of confidence within the profession: future workloads and staffing levels. Both fell in September 2011.
"The September results for the Future Trends Survey clearly show that confidence about future workloads overall over the next quarter for UK architects remains fragile, although large practices remain relatively more confident, particularly in the commercial sector, than small and medium-sized practices," said Adrian Dobson, RIBA Director of Practice.
"Although overall demand for architects' services continues to be very weak in some sectors, anecdotal evidence from the survey suggests that niche markets such as high-end bespoke housing, conservation works and certain healthcare sectors remain resilient.
Practices based in the South of England remain much less pessimistic than those in other parts of the country, with those in Northern Ireland and Wales and the West currently the least confident about future levels of work.
If UK economic production continues to stagnate, the Government may introduce some fiscal stimulus in 2012, which may include bringing forward some infrastructure capital spending. This could open up opportunities, for example, for practices with expertise in the transport and energy sectors."