The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has published the results of the May 2013 Future Trends Survey, the monthly report into future prospects for the architects’ profession and the wider construction industry.
The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index fell back again slightly for the second consecutive month in May 2013 to +12, down from +16 in April 2013. However, the key monthly workload indicator remains firmly in positive territory, with more practices predicting an increase rather than a reduction in overall workloads over the next three months.
All the nations and regions in the UK except for Northern Ireland returned positive balance figures this month, with the South of England (balance figure +16), the Midlands and East Anglia (balance figure +26) and Scotland (balance figure +17) being the most optimistic.
The private housing sector forecast saw a significant increase in May 2013 (balance figure +23) from its April 2013 level (balance figure +16), reflecting other recent positive economic indicators in relation to the housing market.
The commercial sector forecast saw little change (balance figure +2, down marginally from +3 in April). The public sector forecast (balance figure -3) and the community sector forecast (balance figure +2) both improved this month. The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index increased marginally to +3 in May 2013 compared with +2 in April 2013 and remaining in positive territory.
Actual staffing levels remain stable, but there remains significant caution about increasing staff numbers in the short to medium term. Practices based in the South of England and the Midlands and East Anglia are currently most likely to consider increasing the number of staff they employ during the next quarter.
In May 2013, the percentage of respondents reporting that they had personally been under-employed in the last month was 25%, improving a little from 29% last month.
Practices report that they are currently employing 5% more students than this time last year; this greater confidence about taking on year-out and post-Part 2 students is a very positive sign and suggests some improvement in the outlook for those seeking to establish their careers in architecture.
RIBA Director of Practice Adrian Dobson said: “Anecdotal commentary we receive continues to paint a very mixed picture with experiences varying greatly depending upon location and sector expertise.
“The bespoke housing sector continues to remain robust, indeed to be very strong in some locations, and some specialist areas such as conservation are reported to be performing well. Access to funding continues to appear to be a challenge for many developer clients and there is not yet any real sign of a significant overall pick up in the commercial sector, with some practices reporting an increase in enquiries and commissions, but others commenting that the market remains intensively competitive.”