The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)’s Future Trends Workload Index underwent a dramatic fall this month, dropping from +17 in October 2017 down to a distinctly chilly -1 in November.
In terms of geographical analysis, the picture remains mixed. Practices in the North of England (balance figure +7) and the Midlands and East Anglia (balance figure +18) remain the most optimistic about medium term workload prospects., but returned significantly lower balance figures in November than in October. Practices in London continue to be more pessimistic about future workloads, with the balance figure for London falling further into negative territory at -15, the lowest figure for London practices in 2017.
Analysing the November 2017 data in terms of practice size, large practices (51+ staff) returned a balance figure of zero in November. Medium-sized practices (11 – 50 staff) returned a balance figure of -5. Small practices (1 – 10 staff), with a balance figure of -1, were also more cautious this month.
In terms of different work sectors, all our sector forecasts were on a downward trajectory this month. The private housing sector workload forecast remains the most positive of our sector forecasts but was significantly down in November 2017, standing at just +4.
The commercial sector workload forecast had a balance figure of-3 in November 2017, down from +5 in October.
The community sector workload forecast (balance figure -7) and the public-sector workload forecast (balance figure -10) both fell further into negative territory in November.
The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index was also down this month, standing at -4 in November 2017 compared with +9 in October, entering negative territory for the first time this year.
Small practices (1 – 10 staff), with a balance figure of -5, and medium-sized practices (11 – 50 staff), with a balance figure of -9, were less confident about future staffing levels than large practices (51+ staff), who returned a balance figure of zero.
Commentary received from our participating practices continues to be somewhat mixed. Some practices report steady workloads but others are seeing a reduction in new enquiries. Overall sentiment this month does seem to be a little to the downside in general.
RIBA Executive Director Members, Adrian Dobson, said, “Our November data shows a bit of a winter chill as sentiment is driven down by a lack of clarity over the long term macro-economic outlook and as pressures on fee levels appear to be tightening. Many of our larger practices have cited uncertainty over the outcome of the Brexit negotiations leading to caution on the part of clients.
“However, we shouldn’t read too much into a single month’s data and these returns pre-date the decision that the Brexit talks can move to phase 2. My biggest concern is the drop in the private housing forecast. RIBA will need to keep a close eye on that in the New Year.”