Architects' confidence continues into 2015 – January 2015 RIBA Future Trends survey results

  • Workload forecasts remain strongly positive across all regions of the UK
  • Evidence of practices struggling to recruit staff with the desired skills and experience

The recovery in workloads is now clearly a UK wide phenomenon according to the latest results of the RIBA Future Trends survey. The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index was unchanged this month (remaining at +29 in January 2015). Workload forecast balance figures were positive in all nations and regions of the UK, with the highest balance figures again in Scotland (+57) and Northern Ireland (+67).

Small practices (1–10 staff) remain positive about the outlook for future work (balance figure +23); 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 +61 and +80 respectively).

The private housing sector workload forecast remains the most positive (increasing to +33 in January 2015, up from +25 in December 2014). The crucial commercial sector workload forecast fell back a little further from its recent highs (down to +13 in January 2015 from +17 in December 2014).

Overall, practices continue to be very positive about future prospects for private housing and commercial work. Our correspondents reported strong growth in one-off housing, housing for private rental, office and hotel sectors. The retail element of the commercial sector remains more subdued.

Both the public sector workload forecast (+6) and the community sector workload forecast (+3) saw little change this month. The outlook for public and third-sector work currently appears to be for stable workloads but without any dramatic increase in levels of activity in the medium term.

This month, RIBA also releases quarterly results tracking the value of actual work in progress compared with 12 months ago. In January 2015, our practices reported workloads 6% higher than in the corresponding quarter of 2014.

For the past 18 months aggregate workloads for our practices have been growing at an annualised rate of 6–8%. However, we estimate the total value of work in progress remains some 25% below its pre-recessionary peak. This illustrates that there remains significant potential for further growth in the demand for architectural services – if the economic recovery maintains momentum.

The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index stands at +14 in January 2015 (down from +17 in December 2014), but remains strongly in positive territory: only 4% of practices predicted a decrease in overall permanent staffing levels over the next quarter.

Reflecting the workload forecast figures, medium-sized practices (11–50 staff, with a balance figure of +43) 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. Small practices (1–10 staff, with a balance figure of +9) are significantly more cautious about taking on additional new staff at the present time.

This month, RIBA releases quarterly results tracking overall permanent staffing levels. In January 2015 our practices reported that aggregate staffing numbers had increased by a modest 2%, compared to the same period 12 months ago so there continues to be a lag between the growth in workloads and an increase in the numbers of staff being employed.

RIBA Director of Practice Adrian Dobson said:
‘This month’s results present a slightly mixed picture; however, uncertainty around the imminent General Election is probably contributing to practices being more circumspect about future workload levels in the public and third-sector work.

‘We have seen a steady decrease in the number of our respondents reporting that they had personally been under-employed in the last month, and this suggests that most of the spare capacity retained within the profession during the recession is now being productively employed. We therefore anticipate more substantial growth in overall employment levels in 2015.

‘Anecdotal commentary received continues to suggest a continuing strengthening of the market for architects’ services. Although we are not yet recording a dramatic increase in overall staffing levels, we are seeing evidence of some practices encountering difficulties in attracting new staff with the right mix of skills and experience.’


Notes to editors

1. For further press information contact 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 January 2015 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 January 2015 was +14


Posted on Friday 27th February 2015

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