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Gloomier outlook among architects as private housebuilding dwindles

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Architects’ confidence about future workloads fell back in July, according to the RIBA’s latest Future Trends Survey

The institute’s regular bellwether index, which monitors business and employment trends affecting the profession, stood at +10 during the month, down from +17 in June, with private housing showing the biggest drop.

The index for expected workloads in private housebuilding fell sharply from +18 to +7 in July.

Commenting on the data, the RIBA said: ‘This [drop] may be some cause for concern, as it is the private housing sector that has consistently been the best performer in recent years and has provided the engine of growth in workloads for the profession.’

The regions with the biggest overall drops in levels of confidence were the North, with a balance figure of +30, down from +41 in June, East Anglia and the Midlands.

Practices in the South (index figure now –3) and London (index –5) are much more pessimistic, and are now predicting a reduction in overall workloads over the next quarter.

The practices surveyed in July reported an annualised reduction in workload of 2 per cent on the same period last year.

The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index saw a modest rise, standing at +6 in July 2018, up from +2 in June, reflecting confidence in rising staff levels.

However, there was a marked split between large practices, which returned a +75 figure, and medium-sized firms at +16 and small practices scoring just +4.

Adrian Dobson, executive director of professional services at the RIBA, said: ‘Commentary received from our participating practices continues to suggest a reasonably steady workflow, but a highly competitive market in terms of achievable fee levels.

’We have received some further commentary regarding tender price inflation affecting the viability of projects proceeding to construction, especially in certain hot spots such as Cambridge.’

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