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RIBA report: Private housing sector leads a steady market

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The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index for May remains positive, with private housing and commercial remaining the most strongly performing sectors, writes Adrian Dobson

The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index was little changed this month at standing at +23 in May 2017, up marginally from +22 in April.

In terms of geographical analysis, practices in Northern Ireland (balance figure +50), the North of England (+36) and the South of England (+37) were the most optimistic about medium-term workload prospects this month. Continuing the trend of recent months, practices in London (+12) remained by some margin the most cautious about future workloads.

Analysing the May data in terms of practice size, large practices (51+ staff) returned a balance figure of +25. Small practices (1-10 staff), with a balance figure of +23, and medium-sized practices (11-50 staff) also with a balance figure of +23 were just a little less positive, but all size categories of practice on balance anticipate some growth in workloads over the next quarter.

In terms of different work sectors, the private housing sector workload forecast (+22) increased slightly in May 2017, but the commercial sector workload forecast (+7) was down a bit. These continue to be the two most strongly performing of our sector forecasts.

The market for smaller-scale residential projects appears to remain buoyant

The public-sector workload forecast recovered some recently lost ground, rising to -2 but remaining in negative territory. The community sector forecast saw a significant fall, down to zero from +6 in April.

The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index dipped a little further this month, falling to +7 in May from +9 in March.

Large practices, with a balance figure of +13, and medium-sized practices, also with a balance figure of +13, both remained quite upbeat about future staffing levels. Small practices continued to be a little less confident, with a balance figure of +6.

Commentary received this month from our participating practices continues to suggest a broadly stable market for architectural services and solid ongoing demand for qualified staff.

Overall the picture is one of relatively steady workloads rather than significant growth. The market for smaller-scale residential projects appears to remain buoyant, but some of our practices are reporting a cooling market in the larger-scale commercial sector.

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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