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RIBA Future Trends sounds cautionary warning

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The latest RIBA Future Trends survey has revealed a drop in both workloads and staffing forecasts

According to the monthly survey figures, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index fell sharply – down to +22 from +44 the previous month.

The private housing sector has been the worst hit with workloads falling to +23 from +39 in June.

Both the commercial and public sectors have also seen workload forecasts drop.

The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index also declined this month, standing at +12 in July (down from +20 in June).

Despite the ‘significant note of caution’ overall workloads continue to grow and staffing levels are six per cent higher than at this time last year.

Workload index figures were positive across all regions with practices in the north most optimistic. Northern-based firms reported an index of +48 – 26 points above the national average.

The employment market for architects also remains positive. Almost all respondents (98 per cent) expected staffing levels to increase of stay the same over the coming months.

Large practices are most likely to be looking for new staff and reported a staffing index of +67. While small and medium practices are still confident about appointing new architects.

RIBA executive director for members Adrian Dobson, said: ‘Despite the fall in our headline index, it is important to state that our forecast remains firmly in positive territory.

‘This drop seems largely to have been driven by some loss of confidence by our practices in the medium term outlook for work in the private housing sector, especially in London and the South of England.

‘Private housing has been the main driver of increases in architects’ workloads in the last couple of years, so this is a development that we will be monitoring closely in the next few months. It is too early to say if this is a definitive trend and the crucial autumn period will give a better indication of the prevailing sentiment.’

He added: ‘Our participating practices continue to suggest that the majority of firms are seeing solid growth in workloads, though there is significant pressure on fee levels and profit margins on projects typically remain tight, constraining salary levels.

‘Future Bank of England interest rate rises may yet dampen activity in the key private housing and commercial sectors, but with the current low inflation environment looking set to continue this seems to remain a relatively distant prospect at present. The overall economic environment for architects continues to be positive, despite the cautionary note sounded by this month’s survey results.’

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