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RIBA announces May results of the Future Trends Survey


17 June 2009

Press office contact:

Mina Vadon
T: +44 (0)207 307 3761
E: mina.vadon@riba.org

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) today announces the May 2009 results of its monthly Future Trends Survey, which present the most positive improvements in terms of forecasted workload and staff retention since the survey started.

The trends emanating from last month's survey continue to highlight further optimism in current conditions; only 26 per cent of practices were expecting a decrease in workload compared to 34 per cent in March. Practices predicting an increase in workload also jumped from 18 per cent in April to 27 per cent in May, a further indication that practices continue to grow more confident about their work outlook. The number of practices that are less likely to be underemployed remained constant, with a one per cent increase from 72 per cent in April.

There have been minimal changes for workload predictions across the private housing and commercial sectors, with 11 and 10 per cent (respectively) expecting an increase in April, compared to just 12 and 13 per cent in April (respectively). However, more practices expect their workload from the public sector to decline, with 23 per cent in April compared to 17 per cent in May.

One of the most significant changes in the survey related to redundancies and staff retention; 76 per cent of all practices expected staff levels to remain constant over the next three months, compared to 57 per cent in April, reflecting changes in the number of architects employed in practices. The number of practices expecting staff numbers to be cut decreased from 35 per cent in April to 23 per cent in May; 11 per cent of practices expected an increase in staff, compared to just 8 per cent in April.

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 2009, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index is 1 (compared to -16 in April 2009) and the RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index is -18 (compared to -27 in April 2009).

Adrian Dobson, Director of Practice at the RIBA said:

"For the first time, the practices in our Survey are predicting that workloads will stabilise over the next quarter.  This is the most optimistic workload forecast since the Survey was launched in January 2009, perhaps indicating the first sign of the market for architectural services bottoming out.  Next month's Survey returns should give a good indication of whether or not this is a sustainable reality.

"The experience of previous recessions has been that practices often seek to retain experienced staff members, and that less experienced professionals and trainees are more vulnerable to redundancy.  In the May Survey we asked our participating practices to assess how many students (year-out and post-part 2) they currently employ as a percentage of the number they employed twelve months ago.  The average student employment level was 55%, in comparison with the average year-on-year staffing levels recorded in the April Survey of 83%.  This indicates that student employment levels have indeed been disproportionately reduced, which must lead to inevitable concerns about the economic welfare of students and the opportunities for them to complete the professional practice component of their architectural education.  Support for this key group is a critical challenge for the architects' profession.  A future skills shortage and capacity issues will be inevitable consequences if there is a further "lost generation" as occurred during the recession of the early 1990s."


Notes to editors

  1. For further information please contact Mina Vadon in the RIBA Press Office on 020 7307 3761 or email mina.vadon@inst.riba.org
  2. Completed by a mix of small, medium and large firms based on a geographically representative sample, the survey was launched in January 2009 to monitor business and employment trends affecting the architects' profession.
  3. To participate in the RIBA Future Trends Survey, please contact the RIBA Practice Department on 020 7307 3749 or email practice@inst.riba.org .  The survey takes approximately five minutes to complete each month, and all returns are independently processed in strict confidence by our partners the Fees Bureau.
  4. The definition for the workload balance figure is the difference between those expecting more work and those expecting less. A negative figure means more respondents expect less work than those expecting more work.  This figure is used to represent the "RIBA Future Trends Workload Index", which for May 2009 is therefore 1.
  5. The definition for the staffing balance figure is the difference between those expecting to employ more permanent staff in the next three months and those expecting to employ fewer. A negative figure means more respondents expect to employ fewer permanent staff.  This figure is used to represent the "RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index", which for May 2009 is therefore -18.


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