The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)’s Future Trends Survey for October showed that confidence is very high among UK architects, with the workload index up rising substantially to +37 from +29 in September - the second highest ever workload forecast balance figure. This positive figure was spread right across the country with the most optimistic reports coming from Scotland, with a workload index figures of +80, and Wales, which reported a figure of +28. In addition, the percentage of respondents reporting that they had personally been under-employed was down "considerably" to 12% - the lowest since the survey began in January 2009.
As was the case in the previous month, the survey showed signs that the recovery is being shared more equally across practices of all sizes. Small practices workload index dropped slightly, with a balance figure of +28 compared to +32 last month. Medium-sized practices reported a balance figure of +37 - down fractionally from September's +40 - and large-sized practices revealed a balance figure of +60, down slightly from +65. According to the survey, they are "more optimistic about the likely shape of their medium term order books."
Following a slight blip in August and a positive climb in September, the private housing sector forecast continued its upward trend, rising to +34 from +30. Whilst the commercial sector forecast remained steady at +19, both the public sector forecast (balance figure +4) and the community sector forecast (balance figure +4) fell back slightly in October. "The recovery in architectural workloads continues to be driven by the private housing and commercial sectors, but there is also a sense that the outlook for public sector work is at least stable at present and more predictable than it has been in recent years,” said RIBA Director of Practice Adrian Dobson.
The Staffing Index decreased marginally this month, falling to +14 compared with +15 in September, but remains strongly in positive territory with only 4% of practices predicting a decrease in overall permanent staffing levels over the next quarter. Nevertheless, this confidence does not yet manifest itself in a significant increase in aggregate staffing levels across the profession - the RIBA note how practices surveyed generally report that their workforce is just 2% larger than it was twelve months ago.
The monthly survey is designed to “monitor the employment and business trends affecting the architectural profession throughout the period of economic downturn,” the data from which is analyzed by both the RIBA and the Fees Bureau. It is a “representative sample of the range of different practice sizes and geographical locations” with 1,600 British Architects from 226 firms contributing.
Read the reports in full here.