More than eight in ten architecture practices throughout Australia may lack sufficient work to see them through until the end of the year whilst three in ten need more work immediately, the latest survey has found.

Releasing the preliminary findings of its third ‘Pulse Check’ of the architecture profession since the beginning of COVID-19, the Association of Consulting Architects surveyed 453 architecture practices who on a combined basis employ more than 4,520 full-time equivalent ‘technical staff’ and more than 600 casual technical staff.

It found that architecture practices throughout the country have been severely impacted by COVID-19.

Of the 414 practices who responded to a question about their pipeline of work, a total of 131 or more than three in ten (31.4 percent) indicated that they need more work right now.

Meanwhile, a further 200 practices (52 percent) had enough work for now but were concerned that they did not have enough work for the remainder of the year.

Only one in six firms had enough work to last through until the end of the year.

Meanwhile, almost two-thirds of practices have experienced a decline in revenue of 30 percent or more.

In other survey results, ACA reports that, of those firms surveyed:

  • Almost 95 percent (94.83 percent) have applied for the Federal Government’s JobKeeper Payment scheme.
  • Of these, 89.41 percent were successful whilst a further 10.2 percent are awaiting the outcome
  • 79 percent say JobKeeper has helped to prevent staff redundancies in their practice whilst 74 percent say it has helped to prevent stand-downs.
  • 22 percent are changing work arrangements whilst a further 18 percent expect to soon alter work arrangements.
  • Of those who firms who are changing work arrangements, the most common approach has been to reduce work hours. This is followed by reducing pay, changing duties and roles and standing down staff.
  • Eight in ten firms (79 percent) have had projects cancelled or put on hold, whilst almost half (47 percent) have either had projects cancelled (24 percent) or expect to have cancellations soon (23 percent)
  • Almost half of all firms have seen between ten and thirty percent of projects put on hold, whilst just over a third have seen 30 percent or more projects put on hold.

The latest survey comes as state and federal governments are trying to kick-start the building industry after COVID-19.

At a federal level, efforts revolve around the HomeBuilder grant whilst state governments are bringing forward public works and expediting approval decisions.

Asked about stimulus efforts, architects surveyed want greater focus on developments which have community benefit as well as immediate economic stimulus.

This includes projects relating to social housing, education, healthcare, infrastructure and community development.

“I believe any stimulus should be broad in nature and look at construction projects that benefit the vulnerable in our communities – I believe this should be targeted at public works, infrastructure, social housing and the like,” one respondent said, adding that ‘the suggestion of a renovation stimulus worries me’.

“We would dearly love to see the government supporting sustainable, well designed developments as opposed to just providing stimulus for the construction industry for more subpar project homes on the urban fringes,” another respondent said.

“We think there has been a clear shift in thinking after Covid-19 and would like to see more funding through bodies like the CEFC (clean energy finance commission) for case study projects designed by architects, especially medium density housing, as the new guidelines are released in WA.”

In addition to the above, the survey also covered how architecture firms have managed their productivity along with the plans of architecture firms to reopen offices.

These will be addressed in separate articles.