Hints of shrinking market for architectural services

Latest News Thu, Mar 21, 2019 3:49 PM

In February 2019 the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index bounced back from the previous month’s low, rising to +4 from -3 in January.

Practices in London (balance figure -10), Wales and the West (balance figure -6) and the Midlands and East Anglia (balance figure -3) remained the most downbeat about future workloads. Practices in the South of England (balance figure +18) and the North of England (balance figure +30) were far more optimistic.

Each quarter participating practices are asked about the value of their work in progress compared with 12 months ago. In the last three months, overall workloads were 6% lower than in the equivalent period last year, suggesting that the market for architectural services is now shrinking quite significantly on an annualised basis.

The private housing, commercial and community sector forecasts changed very little in February 2019. While the private housing sector workload forecast fell slightly (to +1 from +3), the commercial sector forecast saw a slight uplift (to zero from -1) and the community sector remained unchanged (balance figure -4).

The public sector workload forecast experienced the biggest movement (falling to -8 from -2), suggesting that participating practices remain sceptical about any significant uplift in public sector commissions in the short to medium term.

The Future Trends Staffing Index also recovered a little this month, climbing to +2 from zero in January, but the employment market for salaried architects still appears stagnant.

The quarterly staffing figures showed that overall staffing levels were 3% lower than the same period in 2018, demonstrating some shrinkage in the employment market.

RIBA Executive Director Members, Adrian Dobson, said: “February 2019 seems to be the month when the political uncertainty over Brexit really hit home hard for the architectural profession.

"Many of our participating practices reported a stall in enquiries and evidence of increasing reluctance from clients to commit to projects. Practices also reported a significant drop in job applications and speculative CVs from EU students and architects.

"The overall tenor of the anecdotal reports was of frustration at the Brexit impasse. Several practices commented that the political and economic context created a difficult environment, leading to slow decision making by prospective clients and renewed pressure on fees.”

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