RIBA Future Trends survey for September: caution remains over public sector work

The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index was unchanged in September 2015, with the balance figure remaining at +21.

Practices remain firmly positive about overall workload prospects in the medium term, though with an apparent leveling-off in the rate of growth.

All nations and regions in the UK returned positive balance figures, with practices based in Scotland the most optimistic about future workloads (balance figure +50). Medium-sized practices (11–50 staff), with a balance figure of +56, are more optimistic than either large (51+ staff, balance figure +25) or small practices (1–10 staff, balance figure +15).

The private housing sector workload forecast in September 2015 rose slightly to +21 (up from +18 in August). The commercial sector workload forecast fell very slightly to +13 in September (from +14 in August).

Architects remain cautious over growth in public sector work, with the sector forecast increasing marginally to –3 (from –4 in August); meanwhile, the community sector forecast was unchanged at +1.

The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index regained ground this month, standing at +12 in September (up from +7 in August). 95 per cent of responding practices expect their permanent staffing levels either to increase or to stay the same over the next few months.

Medium-sized practices are the most positive about future staffing levels (balance figure +48), compared with small practices (+7) and large practices (+25).

September also saw an increase in the proportion of practices expecting to increase their temporary staffing levels over the next quarter. A number of practices have opened offices and/or increased recruitment in Manchester and other northern cities in recent months, further demonstrating the increase in opportunities within the North of England.

RIBA Executive Director Members Adrian Dobson said:

“Our responding practices continue to paint a picture of a healthy market for architectural services, with more opportunities to negotiate better fee levels and profit margins on projects beginning to rise.”

“However, we have received reports that changes to housing association rent criteria seem to be having an impact on sustainable delivery of affordable housing, particularly affordable rented housing.”