Severe hardship has hit architectural firms due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Photo: Bloomberg
Severe hardship has hit architectural firms due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Photo: Bloomberg

Up to 27% of architects face retrenchment

By Edward West Time of article published Jun 18, 2020

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CAPE TOWN – The construction industry has been allowed to reopen, but a survey by the South African Council for the Architectural Profession (Sacap) and South African Institute of Architects (Saia) shows severe hardship has already hit architectural firms due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

“The architectural profession in South Africa, on which the actual technical production line of property development begins, is essentially crippled,” Simmy Peerutin of Peerutin Architects, said yesterday (wed) in his capacity representing the Cape Institute of Architecture (Cifa) on the Western Cape Property Development Forum (Wcdpf). 

Peerutin is also the chair and a former vice-president of the Practice Committee of the South African Institute of Architects. 

The survey contained the responses of 1 817 practices across the country, potentially employing 12 600 staff.  Seven percent had already retrenched staff, and many more expected to retrench within the next three months, to between 16-27 percent of their staff.

Exacerbating the situation even further, 62 percent of the 1 817 practices who respond had invoices outstanding for more than 30 days, creating cash flow problems with no new work coming in. An estimated R2.99 billion was outstanding in total, of which R1.44bn owed by the public sector. 

Wcpdf chairperson Deon van Zyl said there  was a perception that professional services had not been hard hit by the lockdown, but the results of the survey showed how deep the pandemic had hit the production line of property development. 

“This means the repercussions of the lockdown will be felt for years to come, and will have another huge impact on what was already a severely depressed and struggling property development and construction sector even before Covid-19,” he said.

The survey showed that of the 594 practices in the Western Cape, 10 percent had already closed their doors, while a further 18 percent indicating they would probably be forced to do the same.

Hardest hit with retrenchments were architectural technologists, who tend to do smaller projects. The survey showed that up to 43 percent of this level of the profession might be retrenched.

The survey also showed dissatisfaction with government aid, for which 32 percent of all practices had applied. 

Across the country, 27 percent had applied for Unemployed Insurance Fund and 12 percent from the Covid-19 response fund that was set up to help businesses through the crisis. Of those who had applied, 60 percent had received UIF aid, but only 8 percent had received aid from the Covid-19 Response Fund.

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