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RIBA report: Qualified optimism is all around

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For the first time in over a year all sectors in the Future Trends forecast are showing positive figures, writes Adrian Dobson

The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index showed a healthy increase this month, rising to +22 in March 2017, up from +16 in February 2017.

In terms of geographical analysis, practices in Northern Ireland (balance figure +57) were the most optimistic about medium-term workload prospects, followed by those in the Midlands and East Anglia (+37) and the north of England (+30). Practices in London (+13) and the South of England (+6) remained more cautious about future workloads.

Analysing the March data in terms of practice size, large practices (51+ staff) returned a balance figure of +20, as did small practices (1-10 staff). Medium-sized practices (11-50 staff) were more confident, with a balance figure of +36.

In terms of different work sectors, the private housing sector workload forecast was down slightly, falling to +20 in March 2017, from +23 in February.

The commercial sector workload forecast seems to be recovering from its post EU Referendum jitters, and bounced up this month, standing at +9 in March 2017 compared with +3 in February.

The public sector workload forecast was also on an upward trajectory, rising to +2 in March from -6 in February. The community sector forecast was also on the up, rising to +1 in March from -4 in February.

Small practices saw quite a significant increase in their staffing balance figure

For the first time in just over a year, all four of our sector workload forecasts now sit in positive territory.

The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index also increased this month, rising to +12 in March 2017 from +9 in February.

Despite some of the economic and political uncertainties in the months ahead, just 6 per cent of practices expect to employ fewer staff in three months’ time, suggesting that in general practices feel that their pipeline of work remains healthy.

This month it was again medium-sized practices, with a balance figure of +20, that were the most positive about future staffing levels. Large practices also remain upbeat about staffing levels, returning a balance figure of +10. Small practices saw quite a significant increase in their staffing balance figure, rising to +12 in March from +6 in February.

Commentary received this month from our participating practices can perhaps best be summarised as generally reflecting an atmosphere of qualified optimism, with most of our corresponding practices reporting a healthy current pipeline of work but less confidence about the longer term outlook.

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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