The latest results from the Royal Institute of British Architects' (RIBA) Future Trends Survey reveal that there has been little overall change in the figures from last month.
In the March 2011 results, the number of practices expecting their workload to increase fell back down to January levels from 32% in February to 27% in March. Those practices expecting workloads to drop fell to 6% down to 19% from 25% in February. Employment prospects for salaried architects rose by 1%, with 8% of architects expecting an increase in staff in March. The number of practices expecting staff levels to drop also fell from 15% in February to 12% in March.
The private housing sector forecast remains the most positive of the sector forecasts, and has increased slightly this month, up to +11 in March 2011 from +9 in February 2011. In percentage terms, the number of practices expecting a rise in private sector housing workload fell 1% from 25% in February to 24% in March, and the number of practices expecting workload to fall dropped 2% from 15% in February to 13% in March.
The public sector remains the sector with the weakest confidence levels (balance figure -18); 8% of practices expected a rise in public sector work in March, compared to 10% in February, whilst 26% of practices expected workload to drop, compared to 33% in February. The number of practices expecting more commercial work fell by 1% to 21% in March, whilst the number expecting less remained constant at 18%.
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 March 2011, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index is +8 (compared to +7 in February 2011) and the RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index is -4 (compared to -8 in February 2011).
Adrian Dobson, RIBA Director of Practice said:
'There has been little change in the overall RIBA Future Trends Workload Index this month, which stands at +8 in March 2011, representing a marginal increase from +7 in February 2011. Evidence of a North-South divide in confidence levels about future workloads continues to grow, with practices in London (balance figure +16) and the South East (+23) now significantly more confident about their work prospects than those in the North of England (-15), Northern Ireland (-75) and Scotland (-25).
The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index for March 2011 is -4, an increase from the February 2011 figure of -8. This illustrates that overall confidence levels are still generally not sufficient to make practices feel comfortable about increasing their staffing levels.
The commercial sector forecast remains in positive territory at +3, but we have not yet seen a trend of sustained increases in this index of the type which would indicate significant new momentum in the market for the procurement of commercial buildings. There appears to be widespread consensus that the balance of work for architects is likely to swing somewhat towards refurbishment and conversion and away from new build over the next few years.
A number of contributors have commented this month that they are increasingly adapting their business models to encompass a broader range of services, including for example community engagement, acting as expert consultants and undertaking research projects.'