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Architects’ confidence in the North of England dips significantly

Architects’ confidence in the North of England dips significantly

08 November 2018

In September 2018, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index dropped slightly to +7, down from +11 in August.

The gap between London and the rest of the UK has narrowed significantly this month, with the previously upbeat North of England seeing a reduction down to +12, from +41 last month.

Practices in the South of England, by contrast, were more optimistic than they had been previously, with a balance figure of +11, up from +5. London based practices (balance figure +1) remain the most cautious about future workload prospects.

In terms of practice size, large practices (with 51+ staff) seem the most positive, returning a workload balance figure of +50. Medium-sized practices (with 11 - 50 staff) returned a balance figure of +4, and small practices (with 1 - 10 staff) returned a balance figure of +6.

In terms of different work sectors, the private housing sector was virtually unchanged, standing at +7 in September 2018, compared to +6 last month. The public-sector workload forecast (balance figure -3) and the community sector workload forecast (balance figure -2) also saw little change – both remained in negative territory.

The commercial sector forecast saw the greatest movement, falling back from +9 in August to -2. This is the first time the commercial sector has fallen into negative territory since March 2018, which reinforces the sense that clients feel far more nervous about committing to new commercial projects.

In contrast to the RIBA Future Trends Workload Forecast, the RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index rose marginally this month, standing at +4 in September 2018, up from +3 in August.

The staffing forecast for large practices (51+ staff) was +43, for medium-sized practices (11 - 50 staff), -4 (down from zero last month), and small practices (1 - 10 staff) +4. Large practices remain far more confident about their ability to maintain and increase staffing levels than those in other size categories, while smaller and medium-sized practices areh less confident about taking on additional staff in the short to medium term.

Practices in Scotland (balance figure +20), London (balance figure +9) and the Midlands and East Anglia (balance figure +8) seem more upbeat about taking on additional staff than those in the other nations and regions of the UK. Mirroring the Workload Index, practices in the North of England saw a significant dip in confidence about staffing: their balance figure fell to -3 in September, down from +11 in August.

RIBA Executive Director Members, Adrian Dobson, said:

“Commentary received from our participating practices suggests a fairly steady but highly competitive market for architectural services.

However, a significant number of practices highlight a growing hesitancy on the part of clients to allow projects to proceed to construction. Many cite the uncertain conditions created by Brexit as the dominant factor causing clients to stall projects.

In recent months practices in the North of England and the Midlands and East Anglia have been noticeably more upbeat than those in London and the South of England, but this north-south difference has now started to narrow considerably.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

  1. For further press information contact Elise.Neve@riba.org +44 (0) 20 7580 3761
  2. Completed by a mix of small, medium and large firms based on a geographically representative sample, the RIBA Future Trends Survey was launched in January 2009 to monitor business and employment trends affecting the architects’ profession.
  3. The Future Trends survey is carried out by the RIBA in partnership with the Fees Bureau. Results of the survey, including a full graphical analysis, are published each month at: https://www.architecture.com/knowledge-and-resources/resources-landing-page/future-trends-survey-2018
  4. The definition for the workload balance figure is the difference between those expecting more work and those expecting less. A negative figure means more respondents expect less work than those expecting more work. This figure is used to represent the RIBA Future Trends workload index.
  5. The definition for the staffing balance figure is the difference between those expecting to employ more permanent staff in the next three months and those expecting to employ fewer. A negative figure means more respondents expect to employ fewer permanent staff. This figure is used to represent the RIBA Future Trends staffing index.
  6. To participate in the RIBA Future Trends Survey, please contact the RIBA Practice Department on 020 7307 3749 or email practice@riba.org. The survey takes approximately five minutes to complete each month, and all returns are independently processed in strict confidence.
  7. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is a global professional membership body that serves its members and society in order to deliver better buildings and places, stronger communities and a sustainable environment. www.architecture.com Follow @RIBA on Twitter for regular updates www.twitter.com/RIBA

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