Latest Future Trends results show improved outlook for housing sector
Architecture practices are less pessimistic about their future workloads than they have been at any time since June, according to RIBA’s latest barometer of industry sentiment.
The just-published Future Trends survey results for September show that while practices still have negative expectations for the next three months the level of negativity is considerably reduced from July and August.
RIBA said the improvement in the Future Trends Workload Index from -11 in August to -1 last month appeared to be driven by optimism among smaller practices and improved expectations for work in the housing sector.
The survey – which brings together responses from 267 practices across the UK – found 25% of firms predicting a decrease in workload over the coming three months, 51% expecting no change, and 24% forecasting an increase.
Regionally, both London and the North reported positive outlooks for workload in the coming months. In particular RIBA said the North had witnessed a “surge in optimism” over the past month that reflected the biggest regional change in outlook since the onset of the pandemic.
RIBA said that none of the four sectors monitored for Future Trends were projecting growth for the coming months, but it said the outlook for the private housing sector had “rallied” following significant falls in recent months.
The latest responses show the commercial sector as being most positive, with work expected to remain stable over the coming months.
The Future Trends Staffing Index found firms expecting to increase headcount despite the lack of confidence about the pipeline of future work.
Asked how they expected the numbers of permanent architectural staff they employ to change over the coming three months, 10% said they expected numbers to increase, 80% expected no change, and 9% predicted numbers would decrease.
RIBA said the responses translated to a Staffing Index figure of +1, up from -2 in August. Regionally, only the Midlands and East Anglia projected that architect headcount would decrease.
Future Trends also asks practices how their workload has changed over the past 12 months. In September practices reported that workloads were down 4% year-on-year.