Architects workload prospects hit all-time low, says RIBA report

© Shannon Fagan

84% of architects expect their workload to fall in the next three months, as workloads drop by 33% compared with last year, according to the latest RIBA Future Trends survey

The latest RIBA Future Trends survey results reveal the worsening impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on architects and the construction industry.

During April 2020, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index dropped to an historic low, with a balance figure of -82.

84% of architects expect their workload to fall in the next three months with balance figures ranging from -80 for small practices to -100 for large practices.

All work sectors and all regions also highlighted a significant drop in confidence. The private housing sector fell furthest from -7 to -72; the commercial sector fell from -5 to -60 and the community sector fell from -8 to -50.

The staffing Index also experienced the largest monthly drop on record from 0 to -30 with 31% of practices saying they expected to employ fewer full-time staff in the next three months. 68% said they expect staffing levels to stay the same.

Survey results also revealed:

  • 39% of projects have been put on hold since the 1 March
  • Of the projects that remain active, 21% are at stages 5 or 6 of the RIBA Plan of Work – so vulnerable to site restriction
  • 14% of practice architectural staff have been furloughed
  • 29% of small practice staff (1 – 10 staff) are working fewer hours.

‘A crisis like no other’

RIBA executive director professional Services, Adrian Dobson, said: “This is a crisis is like no other. While a reduction in architects’ confidence has previously been an early indicator of a contraction in the construction sector – because design work comes first – this time, work on site was immediately disrupted.

“Workload recovery will depend on the speed and nature of our move out of lockdown, and on how much architectural and construction capacity has been preserved.

“As the sector adapts to new ways of working, the RIBA will lobby for continued protection of jobs and businesses and push the government to invest in the housing and public sector projects the country desperately needs.

“This also means harnessing the expertise of architects who have the skills to re-mobilise communities and enable safe returns to workplaces and school.

“We will continue to advocate on behalf of the profession and ensure members have the guidance and information they need to navigate the coming weeks and months.”


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