RIBA Future Trends forecast reveals architects expect recovery to continue

The RIBA Future Trends workload index rose significantly in October 2016, to +16 (up from +8 in September). Despite the sustained increase, the workload index is still below pre-referendum levels.

Architects based in the Midlands and East Anglia and the North of England remained optimistic. London practices continued to be more cautious, with a balance figure of zero, indicating that workloads are expected to remain the same.

Medium-sized practices were the most confident at increasing workloads (balance figure +27), followed by small practices (balance figure +16). Large practices are beginning to recover from earlier anxiety over workloads, with a balance figure of +15.

Forecasts for the commercial sector (+1) and private housing sector (+16) remained unchanged from September. The public sector forecast fell slightly, standing at –4 in October. The forecast for the community sector increased marginally to zero.

The RIBA Future Trends staffing index saw little change, rising to +1 from zero in September, showing that practices expect to maintain current staffing levels.

As with the workload index, large practices are beginning to regain some confidence in maintaining staff levels, with a balance figure of +8. However, medium-sized practices were the most positive about future staffing (balance figure +18). Small practices were the least confident, returning a balance figure of –1.

The value of overall work in progress continues to increase; however, the annualised rate of 1 per cent is much lower than the levels seen from 2014 to early 2016.

RIBA Executive Director Members Adrian Dobson said:

“Comments from architects continue to present a mixed picture, with many practices working in the private housing sector indicating an increase in work since the summer. Meanwhile, many practices reported seeing fee levels increasing.”

“However, this was tempered by caution over funding uncertainty, especially on commercial sector work. Public sector work is experiencing a similar level of unpredictability.”