An overall steady perspective on future workloads was revealed by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) September Future Trends survey of architect members.
A slight fall in the Workload Index to +7, down from +11 in August, showed confidence faltering.
Meanwhile, the gap between London and the rest of the UK has narrowed significantly this month, with the previously upbeat North of England seeing a reduction down to +12 – from +41 last month.
Turning the previous South-North gap on its head, practices in the South of England were more optimistic than they had been previously, with a balance figure of +11, up from +5. London based practices remain the most cautious about future workload prospects.
Its the larger practices (with 51+ staff) which are the most positive this month, returning a workload balance figure of +50. Medium-sized practices, with 11 – 50 staff, returned a balance figure of +4, and small practices, with 1 – 10 staff, returned a balance figure of +6.
In line with last month, the private housing sector was virtually unchanged, standing at +7 in September 2018, compared to +6 last month. The public-sector workload forecast and the community sector workload forecast also saw little change.
The commercial sector forecast saw the greatest movement, falling back from +9 in August to -2. This is the first time the commercial sector has fallen into negative territory since March 2018.
RIBA Executive Director Members, Adrian Dobson, said, “Commentary received from our participating practices suggests a fairly steady but highly competitive market for architectural services.
“However, a significant number of practices highlight a growing hesitancy on the part of clients to allow projects to proceed to construction. Many cite the uncertain conditions created by Brexit as the dominant factor causing clients to stall projects.
“In recent months practices in the North of England and the Midlands and East Anglia have been noticeably more upbeat than those in London and the South of England, but this north-south difference has now started to narrow considerably.”
In contrast to workloads, the RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index rose marginally this month, standing at +4 in September 2018, up from +3 in August.
The staffing forecast for large practices (51+ staff) was +43, for medium-sized practices (11 – 50 staff), -4 (down from zero last month), and small practices (1 – 10 staff) +4. Large practices are said to remain far more confident about their ability to maintain and increase staffing levels than those in other size categories, while smaller and medium-sized practices are less confident about taking on additional staff in the short to medium term.
Practices in Scotland, London, the Midlands and East Anglia seem more upbeat about taking on additional staff than those in other regions of the UK. For example, practices in the North of England saw a significant dip in confidence about staffing, with the balance figure falling to -3 in September, down from +11 in August.