Predictions for workloads and staffing levels both fell in September, according to Future Trends survey

Architects’ confidence about future workloads has deteriorated further, the RIBA announced today.

According to the RIBA Future Trends Survey for September, the number of practices expecting more work dropped from the previous month, with the index standing at -10, down from +2 in August.

Practices were also pessimistic about staffing levels, with the index falling from -3 in August to -7 last month. 15% of practices expected staff levels to drop, although the number expecting an increase rose slightly.

The number of architects reporting that they personally had been underemployed during September also increased.

Adrian Dobson, RIBA director of practice, said: “Although overall demand for architects’ services continues to be very weak in some sectors, anecdotal evidence from the survey suggests that niche markets such as high-end bespoke housing, conservation works and certain healthcare sectors remain resilient.

“Practices based in the South of England remain much less pessimistic than those in other parts of the country, with those in Northern Ireland, Wales and the West currently the least confident about future levels of work.

“If UK economic production continues to stagnate, the government may introduce some fiscal stimulus in 2012, which may include bringing forward some infrastructure capital spending. This could open up opportunities, for example, for practices with expertise in the transport and energy sectors.”

Large practices – those with more than 51 staff – were more inclined to feel able to increase permanent staffing levels over the next quarter than small and medium-sized practices.

Sector-specific forecasts reveal ongoing gloom in the private housing sector, where 15% of practices expected work levels to grow, a fall on the previous month. The number of firms expecting workloads to decrease in this sector rose to 21%.

Expectation of work in the commercial sector also fell: 21% of those surveyed predicted a decrease, although the number predicting growth remained constant at 16%.

The outlook for the public sector workload remained unchanged from August: 29% of practices expected a fall in workload, with 5% predicting an increase.