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October Future Trends Survey

Weakening business confidence leads to caution amongst commercial clients

The October 2017 Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) Future Trends Workload Index reveals workloads remain steady but architects fear businesses are commissioning fewer new commercial developments.

The RIBA monthly Future Trends workload index – a tool used to measure RIBA members’ confidence in the market for architectural services –was unchanged this month, remaining at +17 in October 2017.

In terms of geographical analysis, practices in the North of England (balance figure +33) and the Midlands and East Anglia (balance figure +50) remain the most optimistic about medium term workload prospects. Practices in London, however, continue to be more pessimistic; the balance figure has now fallen into negative territory at -4, meaning that London practices are predicting a reduction in workloads over the next quarter. This has declined from +7 last month.

In terms of work sectors, the private housing sector workload forecast was unchanged at +18 in October 2017, and remains by far the most positive of all sector forecasts. The commercial sector workload forecast fell back slightly, with a balance figure of +5 in October 2017 (down from +7 in September); the community sector workload forecast (balance figure -4) and the public-sector workload forecast (balance figure -1) both fell into negative territories, the community sector decreased by 8.

In terms of practice size, large practices (51+ staff) returned a balance figure of +67 in October. Medium-sized practices (11 - 50 staff), were also generally positive, returning a balance figure of +62. It was small practices (1 - 10 staff), with a balance figure of +6 that were the most cautious this month.

The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index was up a little this month, standing at +9 in October 2017 compared with +5 in September. On balance, the majority of practices expect their permanent staffing levels to either remain the same or increase over the coming quarter. Small practices (1 - 10 staff), with a balance figure of +6, and medium-sized practices (11 - 50 staff), with a balance figure of +23, were more confident about future staffing levels than large practices (51+ staff), who returned a balance figure of zero.

RIBA Executive Director Members, Adrian Dobson, said: “Whilst overall levels of workload again remain steady, there is a weakening in general business confidence that is leading to greater caution amongst clients in the commercial sector. Practices in this field fear that businesses are commissioning fewer new commercial developments and some practices have also commented that they are having to invest greater resourcing in chasing outstanding fees.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For further press information contact Abigail Chiswell-White in the RIBA Media Office Abigail.Chiswell-White@riba.org (0)20 7580 3811

1. 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.

2. 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: http://www.architecture.com/RIBA/Professionalsupport/FutureTrendsSurvey.aspx

3. 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 October 2017 was +17

4. 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 October 2017 was +9

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

6. 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. www.architecture.com Follow @RIBA on Twitter for regular updates www.twitter.com/RIBA

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