• Under-employment at its lowest since the survey began in January 2009
  • Evidence of a growing market for architects’ services
  • Large and medium-sized practices remain the most optimistic

The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index was unchanged in December 2014, (remaining at +29), reflecting continuing confidence in the medium term outlook for the architectural services market. Workload forecast balance figures were positive in all nations and regions of the UK with the most positive figures reported in Scotland (+75) and Northern Ireland (+50).  

In terms of practice size, small practices (1 – 10 staff) remain positive about the outlook for future workloads (with a balance figure of +22), but medium-sized practices (11 – 50 staff) and large-sized practices (51+ staff) continue to be more optimistic about workload prospects in the next quarter.

In terms of different sectors, the private housing sector workload forecast fell back marginally to +25 in December 2014, down from +26 in November 2014.  The private housing sector continues to be the most robust, supported by continuing historically low interest rates and the on-going Government Help to Buy schemes to assist home lending.

The commercial sector workload forecast lost some momentum this month, falling back to +17 in December 2014 from +20 in November 2014.  By contrast the public sector workload forecast (+7) and the community sector workload forecast (+6) both improved this month.

The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index increased to +17 in December 2014, up from +11 in November 2014, with just 1% of practices predicting a decrease in overall permanent staffing levels over the next quarter.  

Medium-sized practices (11 – 50 staff), with a balance figure of +47, and large practices (51+ staff), with a balance figure of +67, continue to be more confident about their ability to sustain higher staffing levels in the medium term than small practices (1 – 10 staff), with a balance figure of +11.

In December 2014, the percentage of respondents reporting that they had personally been under-employed in the last month fell to just 9%, representing a new all-time low since the survey began in January 2009.  This suggests that the amount of spare capacity within practices is now rapidly reducing.  Although there are clearly many macro-economic uncertainties ahead, given increasing workloads and reducing slack, the prospect for salaried architects going into 2015 appears better than it has been for a number of years.

RIBA Director of Practice Adrian Dobson said:
‘December 2014’s Future Trends Survey results concur with the ONS figures released this week showing architects’ unemployment at the lowest levels since mid-2008 – evidence of a real improvement in the economic outlook for the profession. The challenge in this recovery is that as spare capacity within the profession reduces, we are beginning to see signs of practices encountering difficulties in attracting new staff with the right mix of skills and experience, particularly in areas such as Building Information Modelling.’ 

‘Recovery in fee levels seems to remain somewhat elusive for the profession, with many practices reporting that they have not yet seen any significant uplift in fee levels and profit margins remain tight on many projects.’


Notes to editors

1. For further press information contact the RIBA Press Office: 020 7307 3761 pressoffice@riba.org

2. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) champions better buildings, communities and the environment through architecture and our members.

3. 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.

4. 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

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 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 2014 was +29

7. 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 December 2014 was +17


Posted on Thursday 22nd January 2015

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