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Profession bounces back but doubts remain over public sector work

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Architects’ optimism is recovering but pre-election jitters are continuing to impact on public sector forecasts, according to the latest RIBA Future Trends survey

The organisation’s monthly state-of-the-profession report reveals that architects expect major boosts in office, private housing and community work - but only a minor rise in government-backed projects.

The Future Trends Workload Index  – the difference between those expecting more work in the next three months and those expecting less – bounced back this month from +26 in February to +36 having dipped last month (see AJ 26.03.15).

Predicited workloads have increased across all four sectors with private housing remaining the most positive +34 – up seven points from +27 in February.

The commercial sector workload forecast increased to +19 in March 2015 (from +15 in February 2015). The combined workload across these two sectors continues to rise at a rate of approximately eight per cent per year.

There’s uncertainty around future levels of public sector spending on buildings

Despite these increases, practices working on public sector projects remain wary about future workloads.  The sector had the poorest overall increase – up just one point from +4 in February to +5 in March.

Data from the institute’s monthly barometer indicates that questions around the major parties’ spending commitments for the next parliament contributed to a drop in expectations about the future work pipelines.

RIBA director of practice Adrian Dobson, said: ‘With a combined annualised increase of 8 per cent per annum, the private housing sector and commercial sector appear to be the primary drivers for the overall increase in the workload forecast.

‘However, respondents continue to suggest that overly complex procurement practices have reduced involvement in public sector work. This is in the context of uncertainty around future levels of public sector spending on buildings.’

The Future Trends Staffing Index has also picked up this month rising strongly after a setback in February. Currently standing at +16, it has increased by seven points from +9 last month.

Dobson, added: ‘This is a striking indication of greater stability in the employment market for salaried architects, with only 2 per cent of respondents expecting to have fewer permanent staff in three months’ time. We are also seeing a greater number of practices expecting an increase in temporary staff over the medium term. This highlights that there is more certainty about the new project pipeline.’

Read more on the results of the RIBA Future Trends survey in the business section of next week’s AJ



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