Architecture sector remains steady but lacks momentum – RIBA Future Trends March 2018

The prospects for architects’ workloads dipped in March, for the first time in 2018, according to the Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) Future Trends Workload Index which fell to +6, down from +17 in February.

Practices in London continue to be by far the most pessimistic about medium term workloads, with a balance figure of -17, falling deep into negative territory. Practices elsewhere report a brighter picture – the balance figure in the Midlands and East Anglia was +22, in the North of England +24 and in the South of England +25.

Large and medium practices both predicted an increase in workloads over the next quarter, but confidence amongst small practices (with 1 – 10 staff) weakened slightly this month, with a balance figure of +4, down from +18 in February.

In terms of project types, a downward trend was exhibited across all work sectors. The private housing sector workload forecast remains the most upbeat of our sector forecasts but still fell back, down to +11 from +21 in February. The commercial sector workload forecast was also down, with a balance figure of -2 down from +7 in February. The public-sector workload forecast (balance figure -5) and the community sector workload forecast (balance figure -1) remain subdued.

The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index for March stood at +3 in March, compared with +6 in February. While three quarters of large practices (51+ staff) expected staffing levels to increase, and medium-sized practices provided a positive balance figure of +19, small practices (1 – 10 staff) remained cautious. In March 2018 their balance figure dropped into negative territory sitting at -1, down from +5 the previous month.

RIBA Executive Director Members, Adrian Dobson, said:

“Commentary received from our participating practices continues to suggest a reasonably steady market but not one with a great deal of momentum.”

“London practices remain pessimistic about future workloads, especially those smaller in size. The economic and policy uncertainties created by Brexit continue to impact on the confidence of practices in the UK capital city.”

“While large and medium practices both predicted an increase in workloads, many of our participating practices continue to report that fee competition remains a pressure on profit margins.”