Architect sector trends

Group of architects looking at prints of a building plan

(last updated July 2019)

What has been happening in the architecture profession?

The fortunes of the architectural profession are closely linked to the health of the economy and the state of the construction industry and the housing market. During periods of recession, architectural practices fare badly because the number of new commissions falls, major clients cease trading and competition increases as practices make surplus staff redundant. Fees become very competitive and many larger practices accept small commissions which they would not normally be interested in, simply to try to survive until an upturn in the economy.

The mid 2000s saw strong demand for construction projects. A lengthy period of low interest rates strengthened the domestic property market and this encouraged practices to take on more staff to cope with an increasing workload. However, the sector still remained competitive, with clients maintaining pressure on fees. Furthermore, major construction companies offering 'design and build' packages affected the volume of commissions handled by architects and increased competition.

During the late 2000s the severe downturn in the economy and in the construction industry badly affected demand for architects' services, with many practices reporting that their income had fallen by around a quarter. The property market performed very poorly in 2010 and saw no real recovery in 2011 or 2012. Conditions improved during the second half of 2013 as the economy began to pick up and the property market strengthened. Workloads continued to increase during 2014, particularly in the private housing sector and by the end of the year architects' confidence had returned to pre-recession levels. Growth continued into 2015 and although demand slowed during the second half of the year, the profession still remained confident for the future. The economy weakened in 2016 and although workloads remained stable until well into the year, the second half saw new commissions falling back somewhat. Construction output weakened throughout 2017 although the new residential property market stayed reasonably healthy.

Although the economy slowed during 2018 as the uncertainty about the Brexit negotiations continued, demand for architects' services remained positive and the profession was mostly confident for the future.

Keeping up to date with developments

Joining a professional association is an excellent way of keeping up to date with developments in your profession.

It is likely that you will be a member of a professional body such as the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS), the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA) or the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT). These all offer comprehensive services to members to help them to keep up to date with matters affecting the profession.

The Architects' Journal (AJ) includes weekly news features, buildings studies, technical and practice features as well as commentary on topical issues such as sustainable development and green architecture. You can find out more on the AJ website.

Each professional body provides comprehensive information on their website.

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