Architects in Victoria are in crisis mode as Stage 4 lockdowns in Melbourne are having a crippling impact on design and construction, the latest report shows.

Releasing the findings of its survey of 196 practices throughout Victoria conducted between August 20 and August 27, the Association of Consulting Architects (ACA) says design firms have been impacted by project delays, cancellations and loss of revenue.

Moreover, respondents describe themselves as being ‘in crisis mode’ with the forward pipeline of work having ‘totally stopped’.

According to the survey:

  • Of 171 firms who responded to a question about their revenue base, 82 percent indicated that this had declined by more than 20 percent whilst almost three in ten have seen declines of 50 percent or more.
  • Of 152 and 144 firms who responded to questions about projects being cancelled and put on hold, 5 percent have had cancellations whilst 82.6 percent have seen work put on hold. Moreover, 37.6 percent/32.6 percent have seen 30 percent or more of their projects put on hold/cancelled outright.
  • Of 165 practices who responded to a question about changing work arrangements, half (50 percent) had cut work hours whilst almost one third (32 percent) had reduced pay and 33 percent had changed duties and roles.
  • Whilst only 15 percent of practices have stood down staff and 12 percent have instituted forced redundancies, JobKeeper may be obscuring the extent of the situation in this regard. All up, 68 percent of firms are receiving JobKeeper payments and around half (49 percent) say JobKeeper has prevented redundancies and stand-downs.
  • Almost three in ten practices (28.49 percent) have two months of work or less on their books
  • Whilst many (44 percent) of the 176 firms that responded to a question about mental wellbeing in the workplace rated this as either good or very good, more than one in three (36 percent) are concerned about the wellbeing of their employees.

Respondent sentiments were concerning.

“In ‘crisis’ mode and in ‘reduced office efficiency’ mode I am finding NO time for CPD, sharing platforms etc,” one respondent said. “ALL hours are being poured into managing staff and managing projects to prevent them from stopping.”

“We had started to bounce back, then Stage 4 in Melbourne shut everything down again,” said another. “People just aren’t spending money and projects are being put on hold until clients feel more confident to continue.”

Moreover, architects are concerned about the forward pipeline of work.

One respondent described this as having ‘totally stopped’, whilst another had two months of work in the pipeline and no new projects thereon after.

“What is going to happen when all current projects finish?” one respondent asked.

The results follow last Sunday’s release of the Reopening Roadmap for Melbourne and regional Victoria.

Victoria’s construction sector has been impacted by COVID restrictions as the state experienced a spike in cases over winter.

Especially hard hit have been those in Melbourne, where Stage 4 lockdowns have curtailed building site operation.

The ACA said it was working to advocate for the profession.

“The ACA is working hard to ensure that architects’ voices are heard and that stimulus measures are appropriate and well targeted,” it said.

“The survey findings are essential to this.”