The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)’s Future Trends Survey for December 2015 showed a dip in UK architects’ confidence, reflecting the low number of new inquiries received by practices at the end of the year. The Future Trends workload index dropped substantially to +15 in December from +27 in November, showing a decrease in expected new projects. However, all regions in the UK, with the exception of Wales and the West (balance figure -3) and Scotland (balance figure -50), showed positive balance figures, with Scotland’s low numbers possibly related to the impact of oil price changes. The South of England was the most optimistic region with a balance figure of +30.
The close of the year showed that large (51+ staff, balance figure +67) and small practices (1-10 staff, balance figure +16) staff are projecting positive figures about future prospects. On the other hand, medium sized practices (11-50 staff) had a balance figure of -7, showing a possible decrease in number of new projects at the start of the new year.
The housing sector also showed changes for the month of December. The private sector fell from +25 to +20 and the commercial sector also fell 5 marks from +14 to +9. The public sector workload forecast crept back into the green, showing a balance figure of +1 while the community sector forecast dipped below zero, ending at -1.
The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index also dropped from +14 to +9. Small practices (1-10 staff) showed a balance figure of +9, while medium sized practices (11-50 staff) showed caution and ended with a balance figure of zero. Large practices (51+ staff) showed confidence in increasing staff numbers in the next three months, with a balance figure of +50. A mere 5% of practices expect to have fewer staff over the next quarter, showing a positive market for UK architects.
RIBA Executive Director Members Adrian Dobson commented on the report saying: “This further dip in our headline index confirms that the overall direction of travel over the second half of 2015 has been one of increasing caution. However, the Workload Index remains in firmly positive territory overall and work in progress for our practices continues to grow, albeit at a more modest pace than in 2014 and the first half of 2015. It is also the case that we generally witness a small cyclical reduction in our forecasts in November/December as the number of new inquiries received by practices typically slows at this time of year.”
The monthly survey is designed to “monitor the employment and business trends affecting the architectural profession throughout the period of economic downturn.” The data 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.