Scottish architects the most positive regarding future prospects
The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index increased substantially this month, standing at +37 in October 2014 compared to +29 in September 2014, representing the second highest ever workload forecast balance figure.
Small practices (1 – 10 staff), with a balance figure of +32, remain positive about the outlook for future workloads; medium-sized practices (10 – 5 staff) with a balance figure of +67 and large-sized practices (51+ staff) with a balance figure of +60 are even more optimistic about the likely shape of their medium term order books.
The private housing sector forecast continued its upward trend, rising from +30 in September to +34 in October 2014. The commercial sector forecast was unchanged at +19. Both the public sector forecast (balance figure +4) and the community sector forecast (balance figure +4) fell back slightly in October.
RIBA director of practice Adrian Dobson said: “The recovery in architectural workloads continues to be driven by the private housing and commercial sectors, but there is also a sense that the outlook for public sector work is at least stable at present and more predictable than it has been in recent years.”
The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index decreased marginally this month, falling to +14 in October 2014 compared with +15 in September 2014, but remains strongly in positive territory, with only 4 per cent of practices predicting a decrease in overall permanent staffing levels over the next quarter. However, this confidence does not yet manifest itself in a significant increase in aggregate staffing levels across the profession; our practices overall report that their workforce is just 2 per cent larger than it was twelve months ago.
In October 2014, the percentage of our respondents reporting that they had personally been under-employed in the current month was down considerably to 12 per cent; this is the lowest under-employment figure since the RIBA Future Trends Survey began in January 2009.
Dobson added: “The overall market outlook for architects’ services continues to improve, with many practices reporting sustained increases in their overall work levels. Competitive pressure on fees remains strong and whilst aggregate turnover is rising, profit margins on projects often remain very tight. This in turn is sometimes making it difficult for practices to meet salary expectations for staff in a tightening employment market.
“Although we have seen several months of improving levels of work in progress, it does remain noticeable that many practices feel that they still cannot forecast future workloads beyond a fairly short time horizon, and whilst the overall sentiment remains very positive there remains significant uncertainty about longer term prospects.”