FIGURES TAKEN from the March 2019 RIBA Future Trends Workload Index highlight a largely consistent workload pattern, rising to +5 from +4 the previous month.
The index, that aims to monitor business and employment trends affecting the architects’ profession, also analyses trends in terms of geographical location. Last month, practices in the South of England (balance figure -15) were noted as the most downbeat about future workloads, while London, Wales and the West also recorded balance figures of zero.
Midlands and East Anglia practices saw the most significant change in sentiment, returning a balance figure of +20 (up from -3), but it was the North of England that sustained the highest level of optimism, returning a balance figure of +31.
Analysing the March 2019 workload forecast data in terms of practice size, medium-sized practices (11 – 50 staff) were the most positive, returning a balance figure of +29, while small (1 – 10 staff) and large practices (51+ staff) were more circumspect, returning balance figures of +2 and zero respectively.
In terms of different work sectors, March saw no dramatic shifts of sentiment. However, the balance figure for every sector rose and, for the first time since November 2018, none were negative.
The private housing sector workload forecast increased to +4 (from +1) and the commercial sector rose to +4 (from zero). The community sector workload forecast moved out of negative territory for the first time in three months, rising to zero (from -4), and the public sector returned its first positive figure since May 2019, rising to +1 (from -8).
The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index also showed a slight increase to +3, up from +2.
RIBA Head of Economic Research and Analysis, Adrian Malleson, said: “Whilst, over the last year, the staffing index has not dipped into negative territory, the market for architects remains subdued.
“Uncertainty about Brexit still dominates public, political and professional discourse. This is reflected in the comments made by architects. The overall tone is one of frustration that the process is ongoing with no clear conclusion in sight.
“Uncertainty is weighing down on architects’ workload, with many reporting there being fewer project enquiries, or projects being delayed or cancelled. The fragility of London as a prime market and the weakening of the domestic extension/refurb market were also directly referenced by participants this month.
“The overall sentiment is clear: architects are looking for a swift and satisfactory resolution to the Brexit process.”