Architects' confidence fragile as workload index dips

The Future Trends Workload Index of the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) has fallen to its lowest level since August 2009, according to a senior member at the institute.

He was quoting the findings of the first set of results of 2010 from its monthly Future Trends Survey, which was established a year ago to monitor business and employment trends affecting the architecture profession.

"Though it continues in positive territory, confidence appears to remain very fragile. Practices based in the North of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are still the least confident of increases in future workloads. Overall, private housing is still seen by practices as offering the best prospects for future growth. But there has been a reduction in confidence this month even in this sector, falling to +6 in January 2010 from +14 in December 2009," said Adrian Dobson, Riba Director of Practice.

"Future workload predictions in the commercial sector remain positive, but the current balance figure is only a very modest +4. Practices seem now to have factored in a steep reduction in public sector capital spending after the general election, with this sector prediction having fallen quite rapidly to -13.

"Anecdotal commentary submitted this month continues to suggest that the situation for individual practices varies greatly, with certain specialist sectors, for example small-scale domestic extension and conversion projects, building conservation work and LIFT healthcare programmes, performing better than others.

"Common themes remain pressure on fees levels and reductions in profit margins, tightening of lending criteria by banks, and nervousness amongst commercial developers to progress projects beyond planning approval."

January's results follow on from December, presenting a further drop in optimism across many areas in the profession, including workload, staffing and sector predictions.

There was a 10 per cent drop in the number of practices expecting workload to increase over the past two months (38 per cent in November, 31 per cent in December and 28 per cent in January), although the number of practices predicting work to stay the same rose marginally from 52 per cent in December, to 53 per cent in January. There were also very minimal changes to staffing levels, with the vast majority of practices expecting staff numbers to remain constant, (83 per cent in January and 84 per cent in December).

 

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