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Public sector pipeline increases architects' confidence

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Increased optimism in the public sector has helped push architects’ confidence in future workloads higher in August new figures have revealed.

The RIBA Workload Trends Index posted a +29 in September compared to +28 in August, continuing the positive trend which recorded since the start of the year.

According to RIBA director of practice Adrian Dobson, a more predictable public sector pipeline has offered practices a greater sense of stability:

‘Although the private housing and commercial sectors clearly offer the best current prospects, there is a sense of greater stability in public sector workloads, with larger practices in particular becoming more optimistic about a more predictable pipeline of public sector construction expenditure, and modest signs of increasing activity in the community sector.’

Overall confidence continued to be positive across the whole of the UK with Northern Ireland and the North of England – which had previously been among the slowest regions to show signs of recovery - posting the strongest figures of +80 and +46 respectively.

Larger practices with more than 50 staff were the most optimistic about the shape of the order book in the medium term, posting a +60, with medium-sized practices of between 10 and 50 employees posting a +37 and small practices of less than 10 employees posting +28.

Commenting on the latest figures Heinz Richardson, director at Jestico + Whiles said: ‘We have certainly seen increased activity in the UK market place and particularly in London with the residential sector leading the way.

‘However paradoxically we are experiencing increased competitiveness on fee levels which will inevitably impact on margins and overall confidence in the future. We are also receiving significant enquiries from international clients who continue to place value on UK skills and expertise.’

Among the sectors, private housing rose from +23 to +30, however the commercial sector forecast fell back from +23 in August to +19. Both the public sector forecast and the community sector forecast saw also modest increases.

Dobson added ‘Our anecdotal commentary from RIBA members suggests that the overall market outlook for architects’ services continues to improve, with many practices reporting a sustained increase in their overall work levels.

‘However, there remains significant competitive pressure on fees and whilst aggregate turnover is rising, profit margins on projects often remain very tight.’

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