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Architects' confidence surging, says poll

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Architects’ optimism over their work pipelines increased significantly between September and the end of last month, according to a RIBA survey

October’s Future Trends Workload Index recorded a confidence level of +37, up from +29 in September, with the private housing sector housing seen as a particular area of positivity.

The institute said large-sized practices were the most optimistic about the shape of their medium-term order books, although practices of all sizes were positive.

Architects in Scotland were the most postitive, registering a sentiment rating of +80 in the wake of the ‘no’ vote in its independence referendum.

RIBA director of practice Adrian Dobson said the October survey’s overall confidence rating was the second-highest on record for the index, which launched in January 2009.

‘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,’ he said.

Architects in Scotland were the most postitive

‘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.’

Private housing sector confidence rose from +30 in September to +34 in October, while the commercial sector forecast was unchanged at +19.

The public sector forecast and community sector forecast fell back slightly to +4 over the same period.

The RIBA said its Future Trends Staffing Index had fallen from +15 in September to +14 in October, but that just 4% were predicting a decrease in overall permanent staffing levels over the coming three months.

 

Previous story (AJ 23.10.14)

Public sector pipeline increases architects’ confidence

Increased optimism in the public sector has helped push architects’ confidence in future workloads higher in August new figures have revealed.

The RIBA Workload Trends Index posted a +29 in September compared to +28 in August, continuing the positive trend which recorded since the start of the year.

According to RIBA director of practice Adrian Dobson, a more predictable public sector pipeline has offered practices a greater sense of stability:

‘Although the private housing and commercial sectors clearly offer the best current prospects, there is a sense of greater stability in public sector workloads, with larger practices in particular becoming more optimistic about a more predictable pipeline of public sector construction expenditure, and modest signs of increasing activity in the community sector.’

Overall confidence continued to be positive across the whole of the UK with Northern Ireland and the North of England – which had previously been among the slowest regions to show signs of recovery - posting the strongest figures of +80 and +46 respectively.

Larger practices with more than 50 staff were the most optimistic about the shape of the order book in the medium term, posting a +60, with medium-sized practices of between 10 and 50 employees posting a +37 and small practices of less than 10 employees posting +28.

Commenting on the latest figures Heinz Richardson, director at Jestico + Whiles said: ‘We have certainly seen increased activity in the UK market place and particularly in London with the residential sector leading the way.

‘However paradoxically we are experiencing increased competitiveness on fee levels which will inevitably impact on margins and overall confidence in the future. We are also receiving significant enquiries from international clients who continue to place value on UK skills and expertise.’

Among the sectors, private housing rose from +23 to +30, however the commercial sector forecast fell back from +23 in August to +19. Both the public sector forecast and the community sector forecast saw also modest increases.

Dobson added ‘Our anecdotal commentary from RIBA members suggests that the overall market outlook for architects’ services continues to improve, with many practices reporting a sustained increase in their overall work levels.

‘However, there remains significant competitive pressure on fees and whilst aggregate turnover is rising, profit margins on projects often remain very tight.’

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