The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has published the October results of the Future Trends Survey. The monthly survey illustrates the profession’s confidence and workload, a bellwether for the health of the wider UK construction industry.
The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index sustained a significant increase this month, rising to +35 in October 2013 from +26 in September 2013. This is the highest workload forecast figure since the RIBA Future Trends Survey started in January 2009, suggesting an aggregate upturn in project enquiries this autumn. RIBA Chartered practices are increasingly optimistic about their medium term future work flows.
Welcome news also comes from the latest quarterly returns for the levels of actual work in progress which are now showing an annual increase for the first time since the financial crisis. RIBA practices reported an 11% aggregate increase in workload between October 2012 and October 2013. Architects’ workloads are about one third below the peak of early 2008, so there remains a huge amount of lost territory to make up.
All sizes of practices throughout all the nations and regions in the UK returned positive workload forecast balance figures in October 2013, continuing to indicate that the growing optimism about an upturn in overall workloads is now widespread.
The private housing sector workload balance figure increased to +34 in October 2013, up from +25 in September, indicating that architects continue to feel confident about prospects in this sector. The commercial sector workload balance figure rose to +18 in October 2013, up from +17 in September; the steady improvement in the commercial sector forecast bodes well for future growth in this key sector. The public sector and community sector workload forecasts were both unchanged at +3 in October 2013.
The latest results were welcomed by RIBA Director of Practice Adrian Dobson who has overseen the Survey since its incarnation in 2009. Dobson said: “All indications strongly suggest that this extremely challenging and lengthy recession in the market for architectural services is finally coming to an end. The overall balance of reporting suggests steadily growing confidence, with many practices reporting a notable increase in enquiries and dormant projects springing back into life."
The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index stands at +14 in October 2013, a significant increase compared with +7 in September. Practices, particularly large practices (50+ staff), continue to become more confident about their ability to sustain higher staffing levels.
One note of caution is that the percentage of our respondents reporting that they had personally been under-employed in the last month remained at 20%, suggesting that at present there remains a significant degree of over-capacity in the architects’ profession.