The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has published the September results of the Future Trends Survey. The monthly survey illustrates the architecture profession’s confidence and workload -a bellwether for the health of the wider UK construction industry.
The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index increased to +26 in September 2013, rising by four balance points from +22 in August 2013. The key workload forecast index remained firmly in positive territory, building upon the steadily increasing positive trend seen since the beginning of this year.
Actual workload levels continue to be stable on a year-on-year comparison basis, as they have been throughout 2013.
All sizes of practice in all UK nations and regions returned positive workload forecast balance figures in September 2013, suggesting that the growing optimism about an upturn in overall workloads is now widespread.
All sector forecasts remained in positive territory, with the private housing sector workload balance figure rising to +25 in September 2013, up from +22 in August, and the commercial sector workload balance figure seeing a significant increase to +17 in September 2013, a rise of eight balance points from +9 in August. The public sector and community sector workload forecasts both stand at +3 in September 2013.
RIBA Director of Practice Adrian Dobson said:
“Overall workloads for architects fell back sharply in late 2008 and throughout 2009, and continued to decline, albeit much less dramatically, until the end of 2012, but have now been stable for some time.”
The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index increased to +7 in September 2013, compared with +3 in August 2013, and has remained in positive territory for a sixth consecutive month. The index for temporary staffing increased to +12. Overall practices, particularly large practices (50+ staff), continue to become more confident about their ability to sustain higher staffing levels. Practices are even more optimistic about the prospects for taking on more temporary staff; the balance figure for temporary staffing in September 2013 was +12.
Dobson added: “Increased optimism about staffing levels are reinforced by the percentage of respondents reporting that they had personally been under-employed in the last month; down to 20%, the lowest figure since the RIBA Future Trends survey began in January 2009. Although there clearly remains over-capacity in the architects’ profession at present the situation appears to be gradually improving, suggesting that employment prospects for salaried architects may improve in 2014.”
Further anecdotal commentary received through the survey suggests that many practices are continuing to see an overall pick-up in the level of project enquiries and commissions for feasibility studies. However, our respondents continue to report that projects often remain stop-start, as funding remains difficult to secure, and there is little evidence of any easing in fee competition.