The Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) monthly Future Trends workload index – a tool used to measure RIBA members’ confidence in the market for architectural services – has increased, rising to +17 (up from, +11 in August and the earlier high of +14 in July 2017).
While practices in the North of England (balance figure +29) foresee a slight decline, the Midlands and East Anglia (balance figures +26) felt more optimistic about medium term workload prospects this month. Practices in London remained by far the most cautious about future workloads, with a balance figure of +7, nevertheless this is the best figure for the London region for some time having has risen from -6 in August.
In terms of different work sectors, more forecasts saw upward movement. The exception was the private housing sector workload forecast which fell back marginally to +18 from +19 in August overall, however, it remains the most positive of all our sector forecasts. The commercial sector workload had significant uplift this month, with a balance figure of +7 in September 2017, up from +2 in August. Both the community sector workload forecast (balance figure +3) and the public sectors workload forecast (Balance figure zero) increased in September, but these remain the weakest of our sector forecasts.
The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index was unchanged this month, remaining at +5 in September 2017. On balance, the majority of practices expect their permanent staffing levels to either remain the same or increase over the coming quarter. Large practices (51+ staff), with a balance figure of +14, and medium-sized practices (11 – 50 staff), with a balance figure of +17, were more confident about future staffing levels than small practices (1 – 10 staff), with a balance figure of +3.
RIBA Executive Director Members, Adrian Dobson, said, “Whilst workloads are steady, there is anecdotal evidence of a weakening in general business confidence that is beginning to become evident in the architectural market. Private investors, whether home owners or commercial developers, remain active, but the public and community sectors are still at a relatively low ebb, so any weakening in overall private sector confidence is obviously a concern.”