General Election uncertainty reflected in February 2015 Future Trends survey results

  • Overall workload forecasts remain positive for practices of all sizes
  • Public sector workload forecast falls with uncertainty about spending commitments ahead of the General Election
  • Practices now employ more Part 1 and Part 2 students than 12 months ago

The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index fell back slightly this month, standing at +26 in February 2015 (compared with +29 in January 2015). Workload forecast balance figures remain positive in all UK nations and regions, with the Midlands and East Anglia (+43) leading the pack, closely followed by Wales and the West (+39).

Small practices (1–10 staff) remain positive about the outlook for future workloads (with a balance figure of +21). Medium-sized practices (11–50 staff) and large-sized practices (51+ staff) are anticipating more growth in workloads over the next quarter, with balance figures of +69 and +50 respectively.

In terms of different work sectors, the private housing sector workload forecast remains the most positive at +27 in February, though this is down from +33 in January. The commercial sector workload forecast also remains firmly in positive territory, rising to +15 in February 2015 (from +13 in January). The public sector workload forecast fell to +1 in February 2015 (down from +6 last month). Meanwhile, the community sector workload forecast remains stable at +5.

The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index stands at +9 in February 2015, falling from +14 in January 2015. Medium-sized practices are currently more confident about their ability to sustain higher staffing levels in the medium term (with a balance figure of +44) than either small or large practices. Practices reported that they are now employing 16% more Part 1 and Part 2 students than they were twelve months ago.

12% of respondents reported that they had personally been under-employed in the last month, and the spare capacity retained within the profession during the recession continues to reduce quite rapidly.

RIBA Director of Practice Adrian Dobson said: 

“It is positive to see the nationwide recovery in workloads continuing. Practices of all sizes remain confident about future prospects for private housing and commercial work. The fall in the public sector forecast may reflect increased uncertainty about short and medium-term public sector capital spending commitments ahead of the forthcoming General Election.

“Despite the recent sustained period of growth in workloads, practices remain cautious about increasing overall staffing levels too quickly. However, it is encouraging to see signs of practices employing more Part 1 and Part 2 students, and the situation for students seeking professional practice experience is much improved on recent years.

“Overall, results continue to suggest growing demand for architects’ services. Nevertheless, there are widespread reports of intense fee competition in many sectors and profit margins remain tight for a large number of practices.”


Notes to editors:

1. For further press information contact Callum Reilly in the RIBA Press Office: 020 7307 3757

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 February 2015 was +26

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 February 2015 was +9


Posted on Thursday 26th March 2015

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