Architects confidence stays strong

  • Confidence in the North of England and Northern Ireland catches up with rest of UK
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests practices starting to struggle to attract skilled staff
  • Housing remains the most resilient sector despite slipping back in November

The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index fell back this month, standing at +29 in November 2014 compared with +37 in October 2014, but remaining firmly in very positive territory. In terms of geographical analysis the highest balance figures were in Northern Ireland (+50) and the North of England (+46), as some of the areas that were initially the slowest to indicate a return to growth continue to catch up with the rest of the country.  Workload forecast balance figures were positive in all nations and regions of the United Kingdom in November.

In terms of practice size, small practices (1 – 10 staff), with a balance figure of +23, stay positive about the outlook for future workloads, but medium-sized practices (11 – 50 staff) with a balance figure of +70 and large-sized practices (51+ staff) with a balance figure of +60 remain even more optimistic about the likely shape of their medium term order books.

In terms of different work sectors, the private housing sector workload forecast fell back somewhat to +26 in October 2014, down from +34 in November 2014, but remaining the most buoyant of our sector forecasts.  The commercial sector workload forecast continued its recent steady upward trend, nudging ahead by a single point to stand at +20 in November 2014; clearly a sign that practices anticipate the growth this sector has experienced in 2014 to continue in the New Year.

Our participating practices continue to predict stability but little growth in public sector work (balance figure +3) and there remain few signs of any significant increase in the community sector commissions (balance figure +5).  

The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index stands at +11 in November 2014, down a little from +14 in October 2014, but remaining strongly in positive territory, with only 4% 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 +52 and large practices (51+ staff) with a balance figure of +40 continue to be more confident about their ability to sustain higher staffing levels in the medium term.

In November 2014, the percentage of our respondents reporting that they had personally been under-employed in the last month was 12%, representing the lowest level since our survey began in January 2009, and suggesting that most of the spare capacity retained within the profession during the recession is now being productively employed.  Prospects for salaried architects going into 2015 look better than they have been for a number of years.  Our practices report that they are currently employing 6% more year-out and post Part 2 students than they were 12 months ago.

RIBA Director of Practice Adrian Dobson said: “We are beginning to see the first real evidence of practices encountering difficulties in attracting new staff with the right mix of skills and experience.  This seems to be a countrywide phenomenon and not particularly confined to specific geographical locations. 

“There are also reports of an increasing gap between the salary expectations of applicants and potential employers.  At the present time profit margins remain tight for many practices, as a legacy of the long recession which inevitably depressed fee levels, and this is clearly constraining the capacity of practices to increase salary offers.”


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. 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:

5. 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

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 November 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 November 2014 was +11


Posted on Thursday 18th December 2014

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