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Future Trends - January 2019

Confidence of large practices falls sharply – RIBA publishes latest Future Trends survey results

21 February 2019

The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index saw a further decline in the first month of 2019, falling into negative territory from +3 to -3.

Practices in Wales and the west remained the most pessimistic about future workloads, returning a balance figure of -14, and practices in London (balance figure -10) and the south of England (balance figure -6) were also cautious about the medium-term outlook. The balance figure for practices in the Midlands and East Anglia joined them in negative territory, falling from zero to -3.

In contrast, the north of England remains by far the most optimistic location, returning a balance figure of +26 - up from +15 last month.

In terms of practice size, large practices (with 51+ staff) fell sharply into negative territory, returning a balance figure of -40.

Medium-sized practices (with 11 to 50 staff) seemed much more upbeat at +15, but small practices (with 1 to 10 staff) remained nervous, returning a balance figure of -5 down from +1.

The picture remained mixed in terms of different work sectors. While the private housing sector workload forecast recovered a little from its dramatic fall last month (+3 up from zero) and the commercial sector saw a modest rise (to -1 from -2), the public sector workload forecast remained in negative territory (at -2), and the community sector forecast (-4) experienced another slight decline.

While the overall RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index fell marginally to zero in January (down from +1), the staffing forecast for large practices (with 51+ staff) saw a very significant reverse, falling to -40.

Medium-sized practices (with 11 to 50 staff) returned a staffing forecast balance figure of zero and small practices (with 1 to 10 staff), returned a figure of +1, nudging out of negative territory.

RIBA Executive Director Members, Adrian Dobson, said:

“There is no doubt that practices of all sizes are cautious about increasing staffing levels due to the current climate of political and economic uncertainty, however this month’s findings show that larger practices in particular feel far more vulnerable and warier than they have of late. The employment market for salaried architects certainly looks to be somewhat more challenging for applicants over the next quarter.

The decline in workload confidence for larger practices compared to their more rosy outlook at the end of 2018 is a cause for concern. Lack of clarity about the Brexit process and the likely end destination was cited by many correspondents as the most significant source of their caution and apprehension, alongside a growing reluctance to commit to projects on the part of some clients.”


Notes to editors:

1. For further press information contact +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 here

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.

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.

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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