RIBA Business 2020 Survey Finds Architects Revenue Falls for the First Time in 8 Years

THE ROYAL INSTITUTE of British Architects (RIBA) annual summary of business trends, turnover and salaries shows practice revenue fell by just 1% in 2020 – the first fall since 2012.

The report assesses the 12 months until 1 May 2020, so reflecting just the first few months of the Covid 19 pandemic.

Overall, the 2020 RIBA Business Benchmarking survey indicates an increasingly challenging market for architects. However, UK architectural expertise remains in strong demand overseas.

Key trends revealed include:

  • The architects’ profession is contributing £3.6 billion to the UK economy
  • London is generating £2 out of every £3 of revenue earned by the whole profession: 67% vs 62% last year.
  • Larger practices (with 50 or more staff) account for 58% of all Chartered Practices’ revenue, including 90% of all overseas revenue
  • RIBA chartered practices have maintained their success in overseas markets – collectively generating £624m of practice revenue from outside the UK (compared to £625 in 2019). Whilst the EU is important (accounting for 18% of overseas practice revenue), Asia, the Middle East and North America are each a larger market than the EU.
  • Total revenue has held fairly steady in 2020, falling by 1%, after an uninterrupted seven-year run of rapidly rising revenues (in 2019 revenues were up by 13% compared with 2018).

Staffing levels fell by 5%. Staff numbers had increased rapidly year on year since 2013, including an 8% increase in 2019.

Growth doubled in seven years

The 2020 results follow a period of phenomenal growth in which RIBA Chartered Practices saw their revenue more than double between 2012 and 2019, with strong year on year growth and growth in exports.

This contrasts sharply with the past 12 months of uncertainties: the risk of a no deal Brexit; paralysis within the houses of parliament; an election and the beginning of the Covid 19 pandemic, making it a more difficult year for architects’ than the previous seven.

Alan Vallance, RIBA CEO

Alan Vallance, Chief Executive of RIBA said, “This has been a challenging year for UK businesses and we will feel the impact of the global pandemic on our economy and profession for some time to come. That said, this survey shows the resilience of architects and the significant contribution they continue to make with RIBA Chartered Practices contributing £3.6bn to the UK economy.

“The international demand for UK architectural expertise remains strong, with architecture one of the UK’s strong exporting creative industries, generating £624 million of revenue from overseas.

“These results reveal the early impact of the global pandemic on the architecture business. Through ongoing research and consultation we are actively monitoring trends and opportunities on behalf of our members as they navigate the forthcoming months and years. Architects are well equipped to add real value mid and post-pandemic, as we reimagine the built environment and the future of the workplace and homes.

“We will continue to offer high quality support to our members and enabling them to thrive wherever they live or work.”

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