Whilst the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index remained positive in July 2018, standing at +10, it has dropped from +17 in June as architects lost faith in private housing.
The private housing sector workload forecast, the consistent best performer, experienced a fairly dramatic drop in July 2018, standing at +7, down from +18 in June, while other workload forecasts showed little change. The commercial sector forecast stood at +5 and the community sector at +2. For the public sector the balance figure was -2, up marginally from -4 last month.
Practices in the North of England, with a balance figure of +30, were the most upbeat, despite experiencing a drop down from +41 the previous month. Practices in the Midlands and East Anglia, also remained positive, but their balance figure of +13 was also lower than in June.
The biggest uplift in confidence about future workloads was in Wales and the West, where the balance figure in July 2018 was +21, up from +6 in June. Practices in the South of England (balance figure -3) and London (balance figure -5) are much more pessimistic and are now predicting a reduction in overall workloads over the next quarter.
Large practices (51+ staff) returned a workload balance figure of +75, medium-sized practices (11 – 50 staff) +37, and small practices (1 – 10 staff) +5, a much lower figure, though similar to previous months.
However, this quarter, participating practices reported only a 2% annualised reduction in workload compared with the same time twelve months ago.
In contrast to the workload forecast, the RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index saw a modest rise, standing at +6 in July 2018, up from +2 in June. The staffing forecast for large practices (51+ staff) was +75, medium-sized practices (11 – 50 staff), +16, and small practices (1 – 10 staff) +4.
Mirroring the Workload Index, practices in the North of England (balance figure +19), the Midlands and East Anglia (balance figure +13), and Wales and the West (balance figure +15) are the most optimistic about being able to take on more staff over the next quarter, whereas London practices (balance figure -7) and the South of England (balance figure zero) are significantly more cautious about future staffing levels.
RIBA Executive Director Professional Services, Adrian Dobson, said, “The latest survey results suggest a reasonably steady work flow, but the market remains highly competitive in terms of achievable fee levels. Of note amongst the commentary received this month is the impact of tender price inflation on the viability of projects proceeding to construction, especially in certain hotspots such as Cambridge.
“The private housing sector forecast may be some cause for concern as it has consistently been the best performer in recent years providing the engine of growth in workloads for the profession.”