RIBA releases its latest Future Trends Survey report

The latest Future Trends Survey from The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) paints a mixed but generally improving picture about the outlook for architects in the coming months.

Pete Stemp - Senior Copywriter

Peter Stemp06.11.2023

The Future Trends Survey has tracked business and employment trends on a monthly basis since January 2009. The participants, architects from practices of all sizes from across the country, are asked to predict their workload and staffing levels over the next three months. The survey also asks for views on four key sectors: private housing, commercial, community and the public sector.

The Future Trends report covering the period to the end of the year provides a snapshot of the industry that is very much mixed, with some notable areas of improvement but significant challenges remaining in others.

When asked how they see their workload changing in the next three months (the Workload Index), 24% of participants said it would increase, 25% predicted a decrease and 51% believed it would stay the same. While this net figure of -1, the third successive negative figure, is potentially bad news, it is a significant improvement from the -10 and -11 figures that preceded it. This upswing has been driven by more optimism among small practices with the Workload Index improving to -4, up from -17 in the previous month. Medium and large practices on the other hand remain positive with 40% expecting workloads to increase in the next three months.

The picture is also mixed in terms of the different regions. The biggest swing in outlook was in the north where the Workload Index recovered from a -11 a month ago to a highly optimistic +31. Similarly, the Workload Index among London practices has flipped from a net -9 last month to +6 in this report. All other regions showed a decline in outlook or a small improvement that still left the net figure below zero.

While still not showing overall positive expectations, the outlook in the three key sectors improved, with only the public sector remaining the same at a balance of -5. The commercial sector improved to a zero figure, indicating steady expected workloads in the coming months. The community sector also improved to a net figure of -1, marking the most optimistic result for this sector since early 2022. Importantly the private housing sector outlook was significantly less pessimistic – a 16-point improvement – although on balance decreases in work are still expected.

In positive news for the industry, overall, the architects surveyed expect to take on more permanent staff in the coming months. The report shows a net figure of +1 with 10% expecting to add more people, 9% expecting their staff levels to decrease and the overwhelming majority (80%) expecting employment levels to stay the same.

While the latest Future Trends report still shows pessimism among architects about the rest of 2023, there are signs of improvements and a general trend towards more stable workloads and staffing levels.

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