The Future Trends survey paints a gloomy picture

Only a quarter of architectural practices expect to increase their current workload in the coming months according to the latest gloomy snapshot of the sector by RIBA.

RIBA’s monthly Future Trends survey for May revealed a sharp reduction in the number of practices expecting more work, falling from 31% in April to 26% in May.

The survey also revealed that just 7% of practices anticipate increasing their staffing levels over the summer.

The survey underlines the severe impact of the recession on all sectors of the construction industry as cuts in public sector spending and fears for the strength of the economy going forward in the private sector continue to dent confidence.

RIBA said that the overall outlook had weakened and clients were increasingly insisting on fee tendering for professional services and competition for work was “intense”.

One small silver lining was that more than 79% of practices expect their current staffing levels to remain the same over the next three months, an increase on the previous month’s 77% and an indication that the worst of job losses in the sector may be at an end.

The survey shows the only sector of the industry to remain positive was private housing, recording a +6 on RIBA’s survey scale, despite the fact that the number of practices expecting a rise in private housing workload fell 4% from 27% in April to 23% in May.

More than 21% of practices reported they expect less commercial sector work, up from 17 per cent in the previous month.

Meanwhile just 7% of practices expect a rise in public sector work, down from 9% in April.

Adrian Dobson, RIBA Director of Practice said: “The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index for May 2011 is +2, falling from +8 in April 2011. Confidence about future work prospects has weakened somewhat for all sizes of practice this month. In terms of geographical analysis, practices based in London, the South of England, and Wales and the West returned more optimistic future workload forecasts than those in the rest of the United Kingdom.”

Commenting on sector staffing levels he added that post-part two architectural students in particular were suffering from the lack of employment opportunities.

He said: “Our practices report that they are currently employing less than half the number of students they employed even 12 months ago, reinforcing that this group is particularly vulnerable at this point in the economic cycle.”