Confidence in future workloads has risen significantly at practices in the Midlands and East Anglia, according to the RIBA’s latest industry survey
The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index for the month to March 2019 shows that optimism with respect to workloads remains relatively steady around the country, rising to +5 on the index, up from +4 in February.
But the Midlands and East Anglia returned a balance figure of +20 (up from -3), while the North is the most optimistic overall, at +31.
Practices in the South of England are the most downbeat about future workloads (-15), the survey shows, with London, Wales and the West recording balance figures of zero.
However, continuing uncertainty over Brexit is tempering enthusiasm.
There were no dramatic shifts of sentiment across the various work sectors. However, the balance figure for every sector rose and, for the first time since November 2018, none were negative.
The private housing sector workload forecast increased to +4 and the commercial sector forecast rose to +4. The community sector workload forecast moved out of negative territory for the first time in three months, rising to zero, and the public sector returned its first positive figure since May 2018, rising to +1.
Medium-sized practices are the most positive about workloads for the next quarter, while small and large practices are more circumspect.
The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index also showed a slight increase to +3, up from +2.
Despite the optimism in some regions, RIBA head of economic research and analysis Adrian Malleson said the market for architects remained ‘subdued’.
He said continuing uncertainty over Brexit was weighing down on workloads, with many architects reporting fewer project enquiries, or projects being delayed or cancelled. ‘The overall tone is one of frustration that the process is ongoing, with no clear conclusion in sight.’
The fragility of London as a prime market and the weakening of the domestic extension/refurb market were also highlighted by participants this month.