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Optimism returns despite economic uncertainty – RIBA Future Trends May 2022

We've published the latest Future Trends survey results, a monthly report of the business and employment trends affecting the architects’ profession.

16 June 2022

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has published the latest Future Trends survey results, a monthly report of the business and employment trends affecting the architects’ profession.

In May, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index rose by eight points, to a balance figure of +13, and over the next three months 29% of practices expect workloads to increase, 16% expect them to decrease and 56% expect them to remain the same.

The private housing (+12) and commercial sectors (+6) both saw recovery, climbing five and three points respectively, while the public sector (-3) and community sector (-7) remained pessimistic about future workloads.

In terms of practice size, all expect workloads to increase: small practices (1-10 staff) posted a balance figure of +11, up by eight points, and large and medium-sized practices (11+ staff) returned a balance figure of +23, an increase of four points.

Regionally, the picture appears largely positive too, with the Midlands & East Anglia (-22) being the only region to record a fall in confidence. Wales & the West (+10) and the North of England (+29) continued their run as the most positive regions, London rose to +22 after three months of falling confidence, and the South of England recovered from last month’s dip to +16.

In terms of staffing:

  • The RIBA Future Trends Permanent Staffing Index increased by one point to +6.
  • 12% of practices expect to employ more permanent staff over the coming three months, 6% expect to employ fewer, and 83% expect staffing levels to stay the same.
  • Medium and large-size practices (11+ staff) anticipate an increase in permanent staff, returning a combined balance figure of +19, down slightly from last month’s figure of +27.
  • Smaller practices (1 - 10 staff) also anticipate employing more staff, with an increased figure of +4.
  • Anticipated demand for staff is highest in the South of England (+13), while Wales & The West (+10), London (+7) and the North of England (+4) all posted positive balance figures. The only practices expecting to employ fewer staff are based in the Midlands & East Anglia.

RIBA Head of Economic Research and Analysis, Adrian Malleson, said:

“After a notable dip in confidence last month, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index has recovered; architects appear optimistic about workloads and practices plan to recruit.

However, this is against a backdrop of continued economic uncertainty and deteriorating growth forecasts for the UK. Practices remain resilient, but the profession continues to face headwinds, and we can expect the coming months to be challenging for architects, the construction industry, and the wider economy.

Commentary received paints a mixed picture. Some practices report strong levels of enquires translating into commissions, while domestic and commercial work continues to be in demand.

However, some practices report the effects of project cost inflation; enquiries failing to translate into appointments, and projects cancelled as costs become clearer to clients. Delays in the planning process also continue to put a brake on project delivery, especially in protected sites and areas.

We will continue to report these findings to the Government and work with other built environment bodies to monitor ongoing trends.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

  1. Media contact: Emily.Stallard@riba.org
  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. 190 practices took part in the May 2022 survey.
  4. The 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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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