The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) today announces the first set of results from its Future Trends Survey, which was established at the start of the year to monitor business and employment trends potentially affecting the profession.
Completed by a mix of small, medium and large firms based on a geographically representative sample, initial figures suggested around half of all respondents (51 per cent) expected workloads to stay the same over the next three months, whilst 39 per cent had prepared for a decrease, suggesting that work is available. The Public Sector remained the top area that practices aimed to procure work from, with 60 per cent expecting workload to stay the same and 27 per cent predicting an increase. About half of both private housing and commercial workloads were expected to decrease (46 per cent and 44 per cent respectively).
Smaller practices, particularly sole practitioners, were more likely to suffer due to a lack of work; 47 per cent said that they were underemployed over the last month, compared to 17 per cent of larger practices with over eleven members of staff. In terms of redundancies and staff retention, 72 per cent of all practices expected staff levels to remain constant over the next three months, whereas 24 per cent predicted a decrease.
The statistical analysis of the returns will enable the RIBA to regularly report on two key confidence tracking indices relating to future workloads and staffing levels. For January 2009, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index is -29 and the RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index is -20.
In response to the January results, Adrian Dobson, RIBA Director of Practice said:
"The first set of data obtained from the RIBA Future Trends survey is a good initial indicator of the current confidence levels of our membership and their predictions for the next three months. This information will be used to identify and develop further policy and programmes to support the profession in a challenging financial environment.
The January survey results clearly indicate that architects are now very cautious about future workloads and are re-structuring their practices in the light of economic developments. Practices are taking a realistic view and taking action now to ensure the viability of their businesses. The smallest practices are least pessimistic about future workload in the housing sector, perhaps reflecting greater confidence about commissions from individual clients in comparison with larger scale speculative and housing association development, but smaller practices were less confident about growing their work in the public sector, reflecting on-going concern about access to this sector. The RIBA continues to lobby government to create an environment in which smaller practices can be enabled to bring fresh ideas and sustainable local delivery to public sector capital projects, in particular the primary school programme. We are also working hard to persuade government to re-consider the current VAT levels on maintenance and refurbishment works, which could provide a vital stimulus not least in the residential sector.
The practices in the Future Trends survey currently obtain 9% of their work overseas, and with the retrenchment in the domestic market we will be monitoring this figure closely to see if practices can increase the amount of work they are winning abroad. UK Trade and Investment, the main UK government body supporting exporters of goods and services is working closely with the RIBA to develop initiatives to market the services of UK architects in key growth markets, including Russia, India and China, and emerging markets in Africa and South America. Opportunities exist for practices at all scales.
The Institute is doing all that it can to minimise the effect of the recession on its members, practices and the wider industry. The RIBA provides support for the membership to both survive the recession and to be best prepared for the future: practical help has been provided in the recently published RIBA Recession Survival Kit – expert guidance, consultancy and practical advice for both individual members and small to large practices - at www.architecture.com . Throughout the Regions the RIBA is offering CPD seminars aimed specifically at business survival in the recession. The RIBA's Business Benchmarking scheme is a vital business development tool which can assist practices in measuring their business performance and modeling their future development; it is available free to all RIBA chartered practices and we are encouraging members to access this unique service as part of their recession survival strategy.
As the Future Trends survey continues over the coming months it will both provide evidence of the emerging trends and assist the RIBA to support the profession in equipping itself for the future shape of professional practice."