In January 2021 the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index remained positive (at +3) despite the turbulence of Brexit and a third national lockdown. Whilst 25% of practices expected workloads to decrease in the coming three months, 28% forecasted an increase. Just over half (51%) expected workloads to hold steady.
The South of England was the only region to post a negative workload balance figure this month, a fall of 10 points (to -2), although optimism also decreased sharply in the North of England (falling from +29 in December to 0). London posted a positive workload balance (+1) for the first time since February 2020. Other regions – the Midlands, East Anglia, Wales and the West remain in positive territory.
Among the four work sectors, the private housing sector was the only one to remain positive, at + 9. Having posted positive figures in December, the public and commercial sectors fell back to negative territory in January, posting -4 and -18 respectively, suggesting an expectation of falling workloads. The community sector continues to stall, falling to a balance figure of -15 in January, down from -8 in December.
Large and medium sized practices (11 – 50 and 51+ staff) remain confident; 53% expect workloads to increase, and 13% foresee a decrease (overall balance score of +39). Small practices (1 – 10 staff) however fell back into negative territory in January, posting a workload balance figure of -2, down from +4 in December.
With the UK and EU’s new trading agreement in place, the survey for the first time monitored the impact of Brexit on the attitudes of architects. Overall, the new agreement is perceived to have a negative impact on the profession; 15% more architects expect it to lead to a decrease in workload than an increase. Architects indicated that they expect key areas to be detrimentally affected by the new agreement: 41% stated this to be the case regarding availability of skilled on-site staff, 54% regarding recruiting/retaining architects from outside the UK and 63% regarding the availability of building materials.
The Sectors section of our Directory includes our Marketing to Architects feature, which looks at targeting the sector,
key media channels and events, and has access to our downloadable database of 1,200+ UK practices
In terms of staffing:
RIBA Head of Economic Research and Analysis, Adrian Malleson, said, “It’s promising that the profession has overall maintained a positive outlook. However, with a decrease from +10 in December to +3 in January, it’s clear that the ongoing uncertainties presented by both Brexit and the third national lockdown are having an impact on confidence.
“Disparities persist across regions, practice sizes and notably sectors. That only the housing sector returned positive figures, clearly indicates the limited commitment of resources to construction, from both businesses and government.
“Whilst there are some promising signs, for example London reporting its first positive workload balance for 10 months, this increase is marginal (+1), and must be tempered by the fact that the commercial sector, so important to the profession in this region, remains fragile.
“Sustained growth of the profession, particularly in the centres of large cities, will rely on a broad-based recovery that encompasses not only the housing sector, but also the public, commercial and community sectors. This recovery is unlikely to happen whilst we remain in lock-down but can be spurred and accelerated by timely government stimulus and investment.
“We continue to be on hand, providing support and resources to our members as they navigate these challenging times.”
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