RIBA Business Benchmarking 2020 Report notes ‘A Challenging Market’ for Architects

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has published its annual summary of business trends in the architecture and construction sectors. The RIBA’s Annual Business Benchmarking Report tracks the turnover and salaries of UK architects’ and global growth areas for the export of UK architecture expertise.

This year’s report assesses the 12 months until 1 May 2020, therefore reflecting just the initial few months of the Covid 19 pandemic.

The 2020 RIBA Business Benchmarking survey indicates an increasingly challenging market for architects. Though practice revenue fell by just 1%, 2020 is the first year that revenue has fallen since the survey started in 2012, though UK architectural expertise remains in strong demand overseas.

Key trends revealed in the 2020 RIBA Business Benchmarking Report include:

  • The architects’ profession is contributing £3.6 billion to the UK economy
  • RIBA chartered practices have maintained their success in overseas markets – collectively generating £624m of practice revenue from outside the UK (compared to £625 in 2019). Whilst the EU is important (accounting for 18% of overseas practice revenue), Asia, the Middle East and North America are each a larger market than the EU.
  • London is generating an increasing share of the profession’s revenue. This year, £2 out of every £3 of revenue earned by the whole profession comes from practices located in the capital: 67% vs 62% last year.
  • Larger practices (with 50 or more staff) account for well over half (58%) of all Chartered Practices’ revenue, including 90% of all overseas revenue
  • Total revenue has held fairly steady in 2020, falling by 1%, after an uninterrupted seven-year run of rapidly rising revenues (in 2019 revenues were up by 13% compared with 2018).

Staffing levels fell by 5%. Staff numbers had increased rapidly year on year since 2013, including an 8% increase in 2019. The 2020 results follow a period of phenomenal growth in which RIBA Chartered Practices saw their revenue more than double between 2012 and 2019, with strong year on year growth and growth in exports.

The period of the results was one with several uncertainties: the risk of a no deal Brexit; paralysis within the houses of parliament; an election and the beginning of the Covid 19 pandemic, making it a more difficult year for architects’ than the previous seven.

Alan Vallance, Chief Executive of RIBA said,

“This has been a challenging year for UK businesses and we will feel the impact of the global pandemic on our economy and profession for some time to come. That said, this survey shows the resilience of architects and the significant contribution they continue to make with RIBA Chartered Practices contributing £3.6bn to the UK economy.”

“The international demand for UK architectural expertise remains strong, with architecture one of the UK’s strong exporting creative industries, generating £624 million of revenue from overseas.”

“These results reveal the early impact of the global pandemic on the architecture business. Through ongoing research and consultation we are actively monitoring trends and opportunities on behalf of our members as they navigate the forthcoming months and years. Architects are well equipped to add real value mid and post-pandemic, as we reimagine the built environment and the future of the workplace and homes.”

“We will continue to offer high quality support to our members and enabling them to thrive wherever they live or work.”

Read the Executive Summary of the 2020 RIBA Business Benchmarking Report