VicPulse Findings

7 September 2020

The ACA – Vic/Tas has released the results of the first VicPulse survey. Top level findings reveal worrying levels of work cancelled or on hold. This does not bode well for the wider construction industry, given that architects are often the first professionals employed in the full process of designing and constructing buildings and places. 

On the other hand, the survey responses are quite positive in terms of wellbeing and many practices have been able to keep staff on due to the support of JobKeeper. This means that architectural practices are well-positioned to play an active role in the recovery.  

The VicPulse Survey was conducted between 20–27 August 2020 to increase understanding of the impact of Stage 3 and 4 restrictions in Victoria on architectural practices. This was a direct response to a government request for statistics to demonstrate the profession’s current situation and will inform advocacy to government.  

The knowledge created through this survey is essential in the context of Victoria’s second lockdown – Victorian practices have been operating within the extended lockdown since March. The findings will enable the ACA to further support members in Victoria.

Developed by Dr Peter Raisbeck in collaboration with the ACA – Vic/Tas Committee, the VicPulse survey builds on the three national ACA Pulse Check surveys. Together these surveys create an important body of longitudinal knowledge about architectural practices and COVID-19.

The 196 responding practices employed over 1,215 full-time equivalent (FTE) ‘technical’ staff, and over 161.5 FTE casual technical staff at the time of the survey. More than half of the respondents (67%) are very small businesses, employing 5 people or fewer. Of the survey respondents, only 4% employed over 51 people.

Key findings

  • Revenue and workflow
    Architectural practices are experiencing significant declines in revenue and diminished forthcoming work pipelines. There is widespread concern about future workflow. Most practices reported having three months or more of work. However, a significant proportion (28.49%) report having two months or less of work in the pipeline. 
  • Project delays and cancellations
    Architects are reporting that the previously robust residential and commercial sectors have been particularly sensitive to declines in new work. Overall, 80% of responding practices reported having projects either cancelled or put on hold. One-third of practices report having more than 30% of their projects put on hold or cancelled.
  • JobKeeper
    The JobKeeper program has mitigated the need for stand-downs and redundancies within architecture firms. Over two-thirds of respondents (69%) are receiving JobKeeper payments and almost half indicated that JobKeeper has reduced the need to stand down or make staff redundant. As a result, this program has supported the mental health and wellbeing of architects.
  • Wellbeing
    Half of the responding practices report that mental wellbeing is either very good or good overall, and a similar proportion have processes in place to monitor wellbeing. There is, however, concern among respondents about the wellbeing of employees juggling other commitments and younger employees.
  • Changes to employment arrangements
    Employment arrangements have been changed by 22% of responding practices, with another 18% expecting that they will need to do so. Reduced working hours is the most common tactic already being used. The most prevalent strategies in use were reduced working hours (50%), changed roles (33%) and reduced pay (32%), while only a small number of respondents had stood down staff (15%) or instituted staff redundancies (12%).
  • Stimulus
    Many architects report that further fiscal stimulus and investment is needed quickly in critical sectors.  

The ACA is working hard to ensure that architects’ voices are heard and that stimulus measures are appropriate and well targeted. The survey findings are essential to this. Thanks to all the practices that participated.

The results

Access the results via the links below:

Part 1: Demographics and Work Pipeline Indicators

Part 2: Wellbeing and JobKeeper

Part 3: Present and Future Prospects