More than $5 billion of work cancelled, survey reveals

The Association of Consulting Architects (ACA) has released the preliminary findings of its second “pulse check” of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Australian architecture practices, conducted from 29 to 31 March.

According to the survey, practices have “serious concerns” about the effect of the pandemic on workflow, finances and employment. Of particular concern are the 89 percent of responding practices that have either had projects cancelled or put on hold, or are anticipating projects to be cancelled. This represents a sharp rise from the 57 percent of responding practices in this situation at the time of the first “pulse check”, which was conducted from 15 to 17 March 2020.

The survey attracted responses from 777 practices, employing 7,740 full-time technical staff and more than 1,141 full-time-equivalent casual technical staff. Of these practices, 58 percent are defined as very small (employing five people or fewer).

Based on information provided by 333 practices, the combined value of cancelled or delayed work is more than $5 billion. Productivity is also down in most practices, although almost half are expecting to recover fairly or very quickly.

The financial impacts of COVID-19 are having a significant effect on employment arrangements, with 78 percent of practices having already negotiated changes to employment arrangements or expecting that they will need to. Of these, 259 practices have had to reduce the hours of 1,150 employees; 150 employees have been stood down by 57 practices, with 46 of these practices having stood down one or two staff; 192 employees have been made redundant by 62 practices; and 145 practices have made redundant or stood down 224 casual staff.

The federal government announced the details of its Job Keeper wage subsidy on 30 March (in the midst of the ACA’s second “pulse check”). In answer to the question, “Would the government wage subsidy enable you to keep people on?”, 46 percent of practices responded, “Yes,” while a further 45.6 percent of practices responded, “We would hope so, but would need to see details of the scheme.” A majority of respondents (468) expressed a need for further information on accessing government stimulus packages. (Read ArchitectureAU‘s report on the federal government stimulus package.)

The responding practices identified a number of significant challenges: 76 percent expressed challenges as a result of disruptions to client processes and/or client expectations; 65 percent saw challenges as a result of reliance on other parties (for example, consultants) and the impact of carer duties (looking after children or elderly parents, for example); and 56 percent felt that the negative impact on office culture was a challenge.

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