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RIBA Future Trends Survey reveals an increasingly optimistic profession

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The economic downturn could have bottomed out for architects, according to the latest figures from the RIBA

The May results of the institute’s monthly Future Trends Survey show an increasingly optimistic profession, with 27 per cent of practices predicting an increase in workload in the next three months – up from just 18 per cent in April.

Only a quarter of practices were expecting a drop in work, compared with a gloomy 34 per cent in March. Three-quarters of firms were hoping to keep staff levels constant, compared with 56 per cent in April.

Adrian Dobson, director of practice at the RIBA said: ‘For the first time, the practices are predicting that workloads will stabilise over the next quarter.This is the most optimistic workload forecast since the survey was launched in January, perhaps indicating the first sign that the market for architectural services is bottoming out.’ 

Yet, while a rising number of firms were looking forward to growth in private housing and the commercial sector, fears were mounting of a downturn in public sector work. Only 17 per cent could foresee a rise in public sector work in May, compared with 23 per cent in April.

The improved confidence is backed up by figures released this week by industry tracker Glenigan. The construction market intelligence company reported that, although still a third lower than a year ago, the number of planning applications submitted in May 2009 rose to 32,274 – 32 per cent above the February low point.

Allan Wilén, Glenigan’s economics director said: ‘The number of social housing construction projects starting on site increased in May to 155, which suggests that government funding is starting to filter through.’ 

Not everyone is feeling confident, however. Stuart McKnight of London-based MUMA Architects, said: ‘On Sunday I planted an apple tree. I’ve not got much else to say about green shoots.’

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