Architects remain confident despite staffing issues

ribaConfidence within the architectural sector has been buoyed by recovery in workload forecasts, according to the latest Future Trends Survey from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index was unchanged in January 2015, remaining at +29. This positive figure was replicated across the UK, with future workloads considered to be rising throughout the all nations and regions.

Confidence in future prospects was also positive throughout different sizes of firms, with small practices of between 1-10 staff remaining positive about future work at +23. Medium-sized practices (11-50 staff) and large-sized practices (51+ staff) are anticipating greater levels of growth in workloads over the next quarter, with balance figures of +61 and +80 respectively.

These workloads are expected to be felt most in the private housing sector, while the commercial sector saw workload forecasts fall since December 2014. RIBA says the respondents to its survey reported strong growth in one-off housing and residential construction for private rental in particular, while the retail element of the commercial sector remains more subdued.

Reflecting the workload forecast figures, RIBA also found that medium-sized and large practices continue to be more confident about their ability to sustain higher staffing levels in the medium term. Small practices are significantly more cautious about taking on additional new staff at the present time.

Adrian Dobson, director of practice at RIBA, said:

“This month’s results present a slightly mixed picture; however, uncertainty around the imminent General Election is probably contributing to practices being more circumspect about future workload levels in the public and third-sector work.

“Anecdotal commentary received continues to suggest a continued strengthening of the market for architects’ services.”

RIBA has also tracked the value of work currently in progress, estimating that it remains 25% below its pre-recession peak. The Association says this should be considered as a positive sign, as it illustrates that there remains significant potential for further growth in the demand for architectural services – if the economic recovery maintains momentum.

However, the Future Trends survey also found that some architectural practices are experiencing difficulty attracting new staff with the right mix of skills and experience, suggesting that skills shortages may have an impact on any further growth.


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