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FutureTrends Survey

The RIBA’s monthly Future Trends Survey was launched in January 2009 to monitor business and employment trends affecting the architects’ profession. Participants give monthly predictions for overall workload and staffing levels over the next three months, and are also asked about their workload predictions in key sectors: private housing, commercial, community and public sector. Practices are also asked on a quarterly basis about their current workload and staffing levels. The Survey is carried out by the RIBA in partnership with the Fees Bureau.

The following is a summary analysis of the results from the February 2014 Survey returns.

Future workload (February 2014)

How do you expect the architectural workload in the organisation you work in or own to change over the next three months?

Expect %
Decrease 9
Stay the same 41
Increase 50
Balance +41

(The definition for the balance figure is the difference between those expecting more work and those expecting less.)

The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index saw another significant increase this month, rising to an all-time high of +41 in February 2014 from +36 in January 2014, with confidence levels about future workloads continuing to rise.

In terms of geographical analysis all of the UK nations and regions returned very positive balance figures for future workload forecasts; the highest figures were in London (balance figure +54) and Scotland (balance figure +60).

Similarly, in terms of practice size, small (1 – 10 staff), medium (10 – 50 staff) and large-sized practices(51+ staff) are all reporting very positive balance figures, suggesting that overall workload prospects continue to improve across the board.

The following graph plots the RIBA Future Workload Index over time:

In terms of sector analysis, the private housing sector workload forecast continues to be the most buoyant, increasing to +40 in March 2014 from +35 in January 2014. The commercial sector workload forecast (balance figure +16) and the public sector workload forecast (balance figure +8) also both saw small rises this month. However, the community sector workload forecast fell back slightly to +5 in January 2014 from +10 in January 2014.

The current growth is largely being driven by a widespread strengthening of the private housing sector across the UK and a pick-up in commercial projects, particularly in London.

The following graph tracks the sector predictions in the RIBA Future Trends Survey over time:


Future staffing levels (February 2014)

How do you think the number of permanent architectural staff employed in your organisation will change over the next three months?

Permanent Staff %
Decrease 7
Stay the same 79
Increase 17
Balance +13

(The definition for the balance figure is the difference between those expecting to employ more permanent staff in the next three months and those expecting to employ fewer.)

The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index increased significantly this month, standing at +13 In February 2014 compared with +6 in January 2014, but the majority of practices (79%) expecting their staffing levels to stay the same during the next quarter.

There still appears to be significant spare capacity within the architects’ profession, and in February 2014 the percentage of our respondents reporting that they had personally been under-employed in the last month increased by one percentage point to 19%, suggesting that around one fifth of the profession is still working below maximum capacity, and perhaps offering some explanation as to why aggregate staffing levels have not yet increased by any significant extent.

The following graph plots the RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index over time:

The following graph plots the RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index over time: Anecdotal commentary received continues to paint a picture of a widespread pick up in the level of enquiries and new commissions, and an increase in the amount of work progressing beyond planning. However, our practices continue to report a very competitive market for their services, particularly for smaller scale projects, and little sign of any reduction in pressure on fee levels.

The RIBA Future Trends Survey is based on a representative sample of the range of different practice sizes and geographical locations which enables analysis of the trends in sectors, size groups and by nation and region. A total of 225 practices took part in the Survey in February 2014. The development of a larger database of respondents will increase the statistical accuracy of the survey, and if your practice would like to participate in future months, please contact the RIBA Practice Department on 020 7307 3749 or email The survey takes approximately five minutes to complete each month, and all returns are independently processed in strict confidence by our partners the Fees Bureau.


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