Brexit knocks architects’ confidence back to 2012

"Significant fall in positivity about future workloads" in the first month after the UK referendum

UK-based architects expect workloads to decrease for the first time since 2012, according the RIBA’s latest industry survey, but the consensus is that the number of private housing projects will continue to grow – albeit at a much slower rate following the vote to leave the EU.

There was “a significant fall in positivity about future workloads” in the first month after the UK referendum on EU membership, with the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index slipping into negative territory in July 2016 for the first time since 2012. July’s balance stood -7, down rather sharply from +22 in June. Participating practices indicated that this fall was driven by concerns about the implications of Brexit.

London saw the biggest drop in confidence about workload prospects. Only Wales and the West (balance figure +14) returned a positive balance figure.

Medium-sized practices (11-50 staff) remained somewhat positive about future workloads. Large (50+ staff) and small (1-10 staff) practices anticipated a decline in medium-term workloads.

The workload forecasts fell across all four sectors – commercial, community, private housing and public sectors – with the private housing and commercial sectors nevertheless in positive territory.

Despite the decrease in workload confidence, the current value of work in progress compared with that of 12 months ago has increased at an annualised rate of 3%.

The RIBA’s Future Trends Staffing Index declined to a lesser extent, standing at +4 in July (down from +14 in June). 90% of participating practices expect to have the same number of staff or more in the next quarter.

Large practices were the least confident about increasing staff levels with a balance figure of zero, compared with small practices (+3) and medium-sized practices (+12).

RIBA Executive Director Members Adrian Dobson: “While a very small number of practices stated that they have seen projects cancelled or postponed as a direct result of the referendum outcome, the sense is that the fall in our index reflects anxiety about the future impact of the decision rather than an immediate change in the workload pipeline. Only time will tell if this change in sentiment is an overreaction to political events, but this fall in the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index must be a cause for some concern.”