Architects positive for the first time in 4 months, says RIBA

After four months in negative territory, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index rose to +3 in July, from –17 in June.

Nearly a third (31%) of practices anticipate a workload increase, 42% expect workload to remain the same and 28% expect a decrease.

In July the Staffing Index also rose by 5 points, with 75% of practices saying they expect the level of permanent staff to remain the same over the next three months and 8% (rising from 4%) anticipating the need to employ more permanent staff. Despite this, 17% still expect their staffing levels to decrease over the next three months.

All sectors returned slightly more positive balance figures. The private housing sector rose significantly to +17 (from -3 in June), the commercial sector rose to -15 (from -32), the community sector to -14 (from -19) and the public sector to -4 (from -12).

While there was increased optimism about workloads over the next three months, 62% of respondents still expect profits to fall over the next year and within that, 7% consider that their practice is unlikely to remain viable.

The findings from this month’s survey also show:

  • 20% of architectural staff have been furloughed
  • 1% of architectural staff have been made redundant
  • 1% have been released from a ‘zero hours’, temporary or fixed-term contracts
  • 18% of staff are working fewer hours (and they are most likely to work for smaller practices)
  • 26% of projects are still on hold since March
  • 22% of projects which remain active are at stages 5 or 6 of the RIBA Plan of Work

RIBA Head of Economic Research and Analysis, Adrian Malleson, said: “While July’s findings might show the first glimpse of positivity we’ve seen for a while – with practices seeing a specific increase in private residential enquiries as home working continues – architects still face a particularly challenging market.

For some, their current workloads mainly consist of pre-pandemic commissions and the source of future work is uncertain. As the UK enters its first recession in 11 years, we can expect further caution from clients to commit to new projects, and confidence in future workloads may be affected.

It remains our fundamental priority to support our members through this difficult time with resources and economic intelligence to help overcome immediate hurdles and build future resilience.”