The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)’s Future Trends Survey for January 2015 has revealed strong levels of optimism as workload forecasts remain strongly positive across all regions of the UK. Following little change in indexes between November and December 2014, the workload index has once again remained consistent at +29. Workload forecast balance figures have remained high, the highest numbers being reported from practices in Northern Ireland at +67 (from +50) and Scotland at +57 (from +75). Furthermore, practices of all sizes have been responding with positive workload prospects heading into the next quarter.
The percentage of respondents reporting that they had personally been under-employed fell is only 2% higher compared to the same time last year, suggesting a "lag between the growth in workloads and an increase in the numbers of staff being employed."
January's survey has continued to show signs that the recovery is being shared equally across practices of all sizes, though medium-sized practices (11–50 staff) and large-sized practices (51 plus staff) are the most optimistic about workload prospects over the next quarter. This month, the RIBA also releases quarterly results tracking the value of actual work in progress compared with 12 months ago. In January 2015, our practices reported that workloads are 6% higher than in the corresponding quarter of 2014.
The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index stands at +14 in January 2015 (down from +17 in December of last year), but remains in positive territory with only 4% of practices predicting a decrease in overall permanent staffing levels over the next quarter. Although the private housing sector workload forecast remains the most positive, increasing to +33 from +25, the "crucial" commercial sector workload forecast fell back a little further from its recent highs, down to +13 from +17. Nevertheless, the RIBA believes that "practices continue to be very positive about future prospects for private housing and commercial work."
According to Adrian Dobson, RIBA Director of Practice, "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." He notes that "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."
Dobson continues by suggesting that "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."
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.