The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) today announces the February results of 2010 from its monthly Future Trends Survey, established in January 2009 to monitor business and employment trends affecting the architecture profession.
February’s results present a variable picture compared to January’s, with visible improvements in workload and predictions across work sectors, but poor progress in terms of staffing levels and levels of underemployment. The number of practices expecting workload to increase over the past two months increased by 10% from 28% in January to 38% in February. There was also a very small increase in the number of practices expecting staffing levels to increase (from 5% in January to 7% in February), although the number of firms expecting staff levels to decrease rose by 6% (16% in February, compared to 12% in January). 28% of respondents stated that they were personally underemployed in February, compared to 26% in January.
The survey revealed improvements in forecasted workload predictions across the private housing and public sectors; 31% of practices expected private housing work to increase in February, compared to just 24% in January, and less practices expected workload to decrease (14% in February, compared to 18% in January). Predictions for increased work within the public sector also increased, with 15% of practices predicting an increase in February, compared to 11 % in January, and a drop in the number of practices predicting a decrease (21% in February, and 24% in January). The commercial sector reported consistent results, with 21% of practices predicting an increase in workload in both January and February, compared to 16% in December 2009. 17% of practices expected a drop in workload in January and February, compared to 15% in December 2009.
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 January 2010, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index is +18 (compared to +9 in January 2010) and the RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index is -9 (compared to -7 in January 2010).
Adrian Dobson, RIBA Director of Practice said:
“The second Future Trends Survey of 2010 continues to paint a mixed picture, with clear improvements in some areas of the profession, and less optimism in others. Large practices are the least confident about future workloads, perhaps reflecting increasing concern about the likely impact of future public spending cuts upon government capital programmes, but small and medium size practices remain cautiously optimistic. Practices based in Northern Ireland are more pessimistic about future workload levels than those in Scotland, England and Wales.
“Overall private housing, now showing a balance figure of +18, is still seen by practices as offering the best prospects for future growth; this is largely driven by perceived workload prospects in the small and medium sized practice sector for bespoke projects, rather than a recovery in the volume market. Future workload predictions in the commercial sector remain in positive territory, but with a very modest balance figure of +3. Predictions for future public sector workloads remain in negative territory, with a balance figure of -6. No sector has yet seen a sustained trend of rising optimism.
“Anecdotal commentary submitted this month supports the findings that housing work for individual clients with their own capital remains quite buoyant. Other specialist sectors, including conservation work, seem to be holding up well and the experiences of individual practices vary greatly depending on location and sectors of activity. Many practices report intense pressure on fee levels, and the overall situation seems to remain somewhat fragile and unpredictable. Many of our practices reported that the imminent election is having a “wait and see” effect on many clients and architects.”