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Architecture sector remains steady but lacks momentum – RIBA Future Trends March 2018

Future Trends - March 2018

11 May 2018

The prospects for architects’ workloads dipped in March, for the first time in 2018, according to the Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) Future Trends Workload Index which fell to +6, down from +17 in February.

Practices in London continue to be by far the most pessimistic about medium term workloads, with a balance figure of -17, falling deep into negative territory. Practices elsewhere report a brighter picture - the balance figure in the Midlands and East Anglia was +22, in the North of England +24 and in the South of England +25.

Large and medium practices both predicted an increase in workloads over the next quarter, but confidence amongst small practices (with 1 - 10 staff) weakened slightly this month, with a balance figure of +4, down from +18 in February.

In terms of project types, a downward trend was exhibited across all work sectors. The private housing sector workload forecast remains the most upbeat of our sector forecasts but still fell back, down to +11 from +21 in February. The commercial sector workload forecast was also down, with a balance figure of -2 down from +7 in February. The public-sector workload forecast (balance figure -5) and the community sector workload forecast (balance figure -1) remain subdued.

The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index for March stood at +3 in March, compared with +6 in February. While three quarters of large practices (51+ staff) expected staffing levels to increase, and medium-sized practices provided a positive balance figure of +19, small practices (1 - 10 staff) remained cautious. In March 2018 their balance figure dropped into negative territory sitting at -1, down from +5 the previous month.

RIBA Executive Director Members, Adrian Dobson, said:

“Commentary received from our participating practices continues to suggest a reasonably steady market but not one with a great deal of momentum.

London practices remain pessimistic about future workloads, especially those smaller in size. The economic and policy uncertainties created by Brexit continue to impact on the confidence of practices in the UK capital city.

While large and medium practices both predicted an increase in workloads, many of our participating practices continue to report that fee competition remains a pressure on profit margins.”


Notes to editors:

1. For further press information contact Abigail Chiswell-White in the RIBA Media Office +44 (0) 20 7580 3811

2. Completed by a mix of small, medium and large firms based on a geographically representative sample, the RIBA Future Trends Survey was launched in January 2009 to monitor business and employment trends affecting the architects’ profession.

3. The Future Trends survey is carried out by the RIBA in partnership with the Fees Bureau. Results of the survey, including a full graphical analysis, are published each month at:

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 December 2017 was +8

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 March 2018 was +6.

6. To participate in the RIBA Future Trends Survey, please contact the RIBA Practice Department on 020 7307 3749 or email The survey takes approximately five minutes to complete each month, and all returns are independently processed in strict confidence.

7. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is a global professional membership body that serves its members and society in order to deliver better buildings and places, stronger communities and a sustainable environment. Follow @RIBA on Twitter for regular updates

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