Nearly 80% report project delays and more than half say turnover has been hit

More than a third of architects have had schemes cancelled and more than three-quarters say projects have been delayed as a result of coronavirus.

And 57% are already experiencing less money coming into their practices, with a similar percentage reporting decreased workloads and new business inquiries. 

66 Portland Place

The findings come in a survey released by the RIBA which was completed by 83% of the institute’s members.

Alan Vallance, the RIBA’s chief executive who is acting as the chief commentator during the absence of president Alan Jones over a “personal matter” – which has seen the Charity Commission get involved – said: “The findings of this survey show how that covid-19 is having a severe impact on architects, professionally and personally.

“For many architects their work is more than a way to earn a living, and to see decades of hard work threatened by circumstances none of us can have foreseen is a disaster.”

Respondents were asked which UK government support packages they had applied for and which they were considering applying for.

The majority have not yet applied for any support but 33% of respondents stated that they are considering applying for the HMRC Time to Pay Service and a quarter of respondents stated that they were looking to apply variously to the contributory employment and support allowance, application for grants as businesses eligible for rate relief, or the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme.

There has been an immediate disruption to staffing, with 5% stating that they are currently looking for work and 1% reporting they have been made redundant.

Some architects reported concerns that they will be ineligible UK government support under newly-announced schemes, including the self-employed income support scheme. 

Vallance said the institute was committed to helping its members weather the storm.

“We will continue to lobby the government to protect the income of all affected architects, expand support schemes to cover directors’ dividends and shift economic policies to provide businesses with the security they need.”

He called on employers to prioritise the welfare and wellbeing of their staff during this “extremely unsettling time”. This means enabling them to work flexibly where possible, and taking advantage of the government’s job retention scheme, he said.

He added: “The RIBA is currently asking the government to give grants or expand capital allowances so that companies can purchase or rent computer equipment to make it easier for employees to work productively and collaboratively at home.”

Key findings include:

  • The business of architecture is under stress:
    • 59% of respondents reported a decreased workload and 58% reported a decrease in new business enquires. This has led to a reduction in cash flow, with 57% of respondents already experiencing less money coming through.
  • Significant project disruption:
    • 79% reported project delays and over a third (37%) reported projects being cancelled. These delays are being caused by a number of factors, such as site closures – with 61% reporting this – new delays within the planning system, and disruption caused by having to work from home. Some 18% said ‘other’ factors were causing delays – such as meeting cancellations, taking time to plan for uncertainty, staffing changes and caring responsibilities impacting on project and productivity. Only 5% of respondents reported no impact on projects.
  • Architects are facing financial difficulty:
    • 45% of respondents stated that they have seen a reduction in their individual income, and many are uncertain about the future. Although the majority of architects had not yet applied for any support packages from the government, 16% had applied for a mortgage holiday, potentially to ease additional personal liabilities through this period of uncertainty.
  • A radical shift in normal working patterns:
    • 81% of respondents are working entirely at home and around 70% of students reported that their campus had closed.
  • Architects are under personal stress:
    • A third of respondents reported a drop in household income and 45% reported a drop in personal income. Almost a third also reported they had self-isolated with nearly a quarter (23%) reporting deterioration in mental health and 21% commenting they ‘felt isolated’.
  • School closures disrupting work:
    • School closures across the country have had a significant impact on many architects, with 30% saying that disruption to family and caring responsibilities was impacting their ability to work.