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October Future Trends: Pace of growth slows

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Index remains in positive territory but overall sentiment among practices is more cautious, writes Adrian Dobson

The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index fell back a little further in October 2015, standing at +18 compared with +21 in September. Our headline index remains firmly in positive territory, but the overall sentiment among our participating practices continues to be more cautious than it was during 2014 and the first part of 2015.

In terms of geographical analysis, all nations and regions in the UK returned positive balance figures. In October 2015, practices in Northern Ireland (balance figure +25) were most optimistic about medium-term workload growth, while the Midlands and East Anglia (balance figure +12) demonstrate the greatest sense of a temporary peak being reached.

Analysing this month’s data in terms of practice size, large practices (51+ staff), with a balance figure of +57, are more positive about future prospects than medium-sized practices (11-50 staff), with a balance figure of +17, and small practices (1-10 staff), with a balance figure of +16.

Workload levels compared with 12 months ago confirm some cooling in the market

Each quarter we ask our practices about the levels of their workload compared with 12 months ago. This quarter we report that the value of work in progress is 4 per cent higher than in the same quarter in 2014. While this is a very healthy rate of annual growth, it is a step down from the rates of 8-10 per cent that we have consistently seen throughout 2014 and early 2015, and is further confirmation of some cooling in the overall market for architectural services.

In terms of different work sectors, the private housing sector workload forecast rebounded further this month, rising to +25 in October from +21 in September.  However, the commercial sector workload forecast was down, standing at +7 in October compared with +13 in September. The public-sector workload forecast was unchanged at -3, with practices seeing little prospect of an overall improvement in the public-sector workload flow. Our community sector forecast saw a modest rise to +3 in October, up from +1 in September.

The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index fell back somewhat this month, standing at +9 in October, down from +12 in September.  Mirroring the trend in the Workplace Index, our practices are sounding more cautious, with confidence about future staffing levels having declined in recent months. Nevertheless the Staffing Index remains in positive territory and there continues to be quite a lot of anecdotal evidence sent in by practices that suggests many are now having difficulties recruiting staff with the levels of skills and experience they are looking for.

Small practices returned a staffing index balance figure of +9 this month, medium-sized practices a balance figure of +4, and large practices a balance figure of +29. Our participating practices report that in terms of current staffing levels they are employing 3 per cent more staff than this time last year.

RIBA Future Trends Workload Index

RIBA Future Trends Workload Index

Adrian Dobson is executive director members at the RIBA and the author of 21 Things You Won’t Learn in Architecture School.  A full copy of the RIBA Future Trends Survey monthly report is available online.

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