The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)’s Future Trends Survey for December 2014 has revealed little month-on-month change in indexes with the acknowledgement of a growing level of optimism. After falling back slightly in November 2014, the workload index has remained consistent at +29 (from +37 in November). Workload forecast balance figures have remained extremely positive, with practices reporting +50 in Northern Ireland and up to +75 in Scotland. Furthermore, practices of all sizes have been responding with "optimistic" workload prospects heading into the next quarter. The percentage of respondents reporting that they had personally been under-employed fell to 9% from 12%.
This latest survey has continued to show signs that the recovery is being shared more equally across practices of all sizes, though "medium-sized practices (11–50 staff) and large-sized practices (51 plus staff) continue to be more optimistic about workload prospects." The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index increased to +17 in December 2014, up from +11, with just "1% of practices predicting a decrease in overall permanent staffing levels over the next quarter."
The private housing sector workload forecast fell back once again to +25 (from +26) but "continues to be the most robust, supported by continuing historically low interest rates and the on-going Government Help to Buy schemes to assist home lending." According to the survey, the commercial sector workload forecast "lost some momentum this month," falling back to +17 from +20. In contrast the public sector workload forecast (standing at +7) and the community sector workload forecast (standing at +6) both improved.
RIBA Director of Practice Adrian Dobson has said that "December 2014’s Future Trends Survey results concur with the ONS figures released this week showing architects’ unemployment at the lowest levels since mid-2008 – evidence of a real improvement in the economic outlook for the profession." He continued: "the challenge in this recovery is that as spare capacity within the profession reduces, we are beginning to see signs of practices encountering difficulties in attracting new staff with the right mix of skills and experience, particularly in areas such as Building Information Modelling (BIM)."
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.