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RIBA Future Trends Survey results for May 2011


27 June 2011

Press office contact:

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

The Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) has published the latest results of the monthly Future Trends Survey, which cover May 2011.

This month’s results highlight a reduction in the number of practices expecting more work, falling 5% from 31% in April to 26% in May. Practices of all sizes throughout the UK continue to remain very cautious about increasing their permanent staffing levels, with practices predicting an increase in staff levels remaining at 7%, and 79% of practices expecting staff levels to stay the same (a 2% rise from 77% in April). Levels of underemployment also rose, with 29% of architects stating that they were personally underemployed compared to 26% in April.

The private housing sector forecast (balance figure +6) is the only sector that currently remains positive; the number of practices expecting a rise in private sector housing workload fell 4% from 27% in April to 23% in May; the number of practices expecting less work fell marginally from 18% in April to 17% in March. 21% of practices expected less commercial sector work compared to 17% in May, whilst the number expecting a rise in workload rose to 19% in May (18% in April).

The public sector forecast (balance figure -25) continues to predict a declining workload; in May, 7% of practices expected a rise in public sector work, compared to 9% in April, whilst the number of practices expecting workload to drop remained constant at 31%.

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 2011, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index is +2 (compared to +8 in April), and the RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index is -8 (compared to -9 in April).

Adrian Dobson, RIBA Director of Practice said:

‘The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index for May 2011 is +2, falling from +8 in April 2011.  Confidence about future work prospects has weakened somewhat for all sizes of practice this month. In terms of geographical analysis, practices based in London, the South of England, and Wales and the West returned more optimistic future workload forecasts than those in the rest of the United Kingdom.

‘Year-out and post part 2 students continue to be severely impacted by the lack of employment opportunities in the architects’ profession.  Our practices report that they are currently employing less than half the number of students they employed even 12 months ago, reinforcing that this group is particularly vulnerable at this point in the economic cycle.

‘Our practices continue to report intense fee competition and greater use by clients of fee tendering for professional services.  A number of practices comment on declining work opportunities in the public sector.  The future outlook continues to be uncertain for many practices.  More positively those working on high end residential projects, conservation work or with an established presence in key overseas markets are experiencing more resilient workloads.’


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 2011 is +2.
  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 April 2011 is therefore -8.


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