Steady market for architects – RIBA Future Trends Survey April 2018

Architects’ workloads recovered lost ground in April 2018, according to the Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) Future Trends Workload Index, which rose to +13, up from +6 in March.

While practices in London continue to be the most pessimistic about medium term workloads, at -1, London returned its best figure for some time. By contrast, practices elsewhere continue to be more upbeat. The balance figure in the Midlands and East Anglia was +23, in the North of England +20 and in the South of England +30, showing that outside London confidence levels are much more robust.

In terms of practice size, large practices (51+ staff) returned a workload balance figure of +29, medium-sized practices (11 – 50 staff) +9, and small practices (1 – 10 staff) returned a balance figure of +12.

Our quarterly report showed that the total value of work in progress in April 2018 was the same as April 2017, suggesting that whilst some of the steam has gone out of the market, demand for architectural services remains steady.

In terms of different work sectors, there was a complete reversal of the downward trend from last month, with all four of our sector forecasts moving up. The private housing sector workload forecast remains the most positive, rising to +16 in April 2018 from +11 in March. The commercial sector workload forecast moved back into positive territory, with a balance figure of +6 in April 2018, up from -2 in March. The public sector workload forecast (balance figure -1) and the community sector workload forecast (balance figure +7) were both also back on an upward trajectory.

The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index dipped a little further this month, standing at +1 in April 2018 compared with +3 in March. The staffing forecast for large practices (51+ staff) was +17 in April, for medium-sized practices (11 – 50 staff) it was +9 and for small practices (1 – 10 staff) it was -1.

Compared to the same period twelve months ago however, practices report that staffing levels are steady; they are employing just 1% more staff in April 2018 compared with April 2017. This suggests that supply and demand in the employment market for salaried architects remains in balance.

RIBA Executive Director Members, Adrian Dobson, said:

“Commentary received from our participating practices continues to suggest a reasonably steady market.”

“The mood can best be described as one of cautious optimism. Actual workloads are holding steady and most practices seem to be able to see a reasonable short to medium term pipeline of work. However, there remains an underlying nervousness in relation to the broader political and economic context, including issues such as Brexit, the impact of potential interest rate rises and the inflation outlook.”