Architects remain confident on future workloads

The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index increased marginally this month, standing at +29 in September 2014 compared to +28 in August 2014, maintaining the consistently strong workload forecast we have seen throughout the current calendar year.

Overall confidence levels about future workload prospects for architects continue to be very positive across the whole of the UK. Northern Ireland and the North of England, which were the slowest to show signs of recovery, are currently the most confident about an increase in work in progress in the next quarter, returning balance figures of +80 and +46 respectively.

Small practices (1 – 10 staff) remain positive about the outlook for future workloads (with a balance figure of +28), medium-sized practice (10 – 50 staff) are more confident (balance figure of +37), and large-sized practices (51+ staff) are the most optimistic about the likely shape of their medium term order books (with a balance figure of +60).

The private housing sector forecast recovered the ground it lost in August, rising from +23 to stand at +30 in September 2014. The commercial sector forecast fell back from +23 in August to +19 this month. However both the public sector forecast (balance figure +5) and the community sector forecast (balance figure +7) saw modest increases this month.

RIBA Director of Practice Adrian Dobson said: “Although the private housing and commercial sectors clearly offer the best current prospects, there is a sense of greater stability in public sector workloads, with larger practices in particular becoming more optimistic about a more predictable pipeline of public sector construction expenditure, and modest signs of increasing activity in the community sector.”

The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index increased this month, rising to +15 in September 2014 compared with +13 in August 2014, remaining strongly in positive territory, with only 2% of practices predicting a decrease in overall permanent staffing levels over the next quarter. However, this confidence is not yet manifesting itself in a significant increase in aggregate staffing levels across the profession, although we are beginning to receive reports of practices experiencing difficulties in recruiting staff with particular skill sets, especially in London and the South of England.

In September 2014, the percentage of our respondents reporting that they had personally been under-employed in September 2014 was 17%, up from 13% in August.

Dobson added “Our anecdotal commentary from RIBA members suggests that the overall market outlook for architects’ services continues to improve, with many practices reporting a sustained increases in their overall work levels. However, there remains significant competitive pressure on fees and whilst aggregate turnover is rising, profit margins on projects often remain very tight.”


Notes to editors

  1. For further press information contact the RIBA Press Office: 020 7307 3761
  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. 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
  5. 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:
  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 September 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 September 2014 was +15


Posted on Wednesday 22nd October 2014

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