Finally, some good news to report, from PQQ reform to an upswing in workloads, says Christine Murray
In my three and a half years as AJ editor, I have never had so much good news to report. This week, statistics published by the Fees Bureau show how over the past three months fee-paying work for architects has shot up across the UK, with increases in all regions except Northern Ireland.
Also this week, the EU has published a draft directive suggesting major reform to PQQs, including the relaxation of minimum turnover requirements. The directive is not mandatory - once passed, we urge the UK to immediately adopt its recommendations and give all practices a fair chance at public contracts.
This wave of good news comes as Angela Brady’s RIBA presidency comes to a close, as she hands over to incumbent Stephen Hodder. As a campaigning president, Brady was a vocal advocate for the profession, and EU procurement reform is one of her legacies, along with greater recognition for the architects and engineers of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and her role as a champion for equality and diversity. Brady has also brought transparency and energy to the RIBA - a slow beast to spur into action. I hope Hodder can keep that stone rolling.
Brady presided over the RIBA during two of the profession’s most challenging years, and is passing on the baton just as green shoots emerge. For some months, we’ve been hearing anecdotally that practices are recruiting, but this week we have proof: statistics collected by architect Robert Guy of Arturus show that about half of the AJ100 practices have increased the number of ARB-registered architects they employ.
Recruitment agencies are reporting a surge, too. Tamsyn Curley of recruitment agency Place Careers says: ‘From our perspective, the architectural labour market is currently at its most positive since 2009.’ And Lucy Cahill, from agency Bespoke, claims demand is spread across all sectors, and that practices ‘are willing to offer permanent positions straight away, which shows an exciting confidence in the market.’
Practices such as Archial say they have been recruiting since March to meet the upturn in their workload across the UK and abroad. Edinburgh’s Sutherland Hussey says it is now running at full capacity, due to stalled projects restarting: ‘Weirdly, four projects that were shelved in 2008 have resurfaced in the past month. It definitely feels like things are improving.’
Based on the current up-tick in activity, former RIBA president Jack Pringle of Pringle Brandon Perkins + Will believes ‘we will be in full recovery by the second or third quarter of 2014 in the South-East, with the rest of the country lagging by a year or more.’
‘Don’t bet the farm on it,’ Pringle adds, ‘but I did call five years in recession about right.’
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