New Zealand architects believe the building industry is on "a knife-edge" and just 10 per cent have secured 12 months or more of work, according to a survey by online architect's library eBoss.
The survey was conducted last month and polled 113 industry professionals from Auckland to Southland to assess the local effects of the global credit crunch. Two-thirds reported their day-to-day work had been impacted and a quarter said their jobs were insecure or uncertain.
Most of the respondents were architects and architectural designers. General manager of eBoss, Matthew Duder, said rather than focusing on plummeting building consent figures as a barometer for the building industry, architects, who are working six to nine months ahead of builders, act as a forecast of what is to come.
He expected the majority of respondents would have had six to 18 months of work lined up if they were surveyed this time last year.
Auckland architect Brent Hulema of Hulema architects said a year ago his business had "work coming out of our ears". Now the workload has been cut by about a third and Hulema has had to reduce the hours its staff work.
His firm saw the first signs of a down-turn in the purchaser market last year when the jobs for million-dollar homes ground to a halt.
At the beginning of the year the residential apartment and townhouse projects went on hold.
Almost 70 per cent of professionals surveyed believed the building industry will worsen throughout 2009, with just 45 per cent believing the situation will begin to improve in 2010. More than 80 per cent believe the industry's recovery will start in 2011.
Duder said some were blunt about the hit the building industry had taken.
"One of our respondents summed it up by saying 'Anybody who thinks New Zealand is immune from the effects of this crash is sucking dream tablets'."
But he said most believed recovery would be fast-tracked through improvements to the building consents process and reduced compliance costs for designers.
One designer said: "The snowball effect that happens in the building industry from the councils taking so long to process building permits is ridiculous."
Duder said he was also encouraged to see nearly half of the respondents employing Kiwi ingenuity being innovative and tweaking their business focus in response.
While more than two-thirds of industry professionals predicted an industry downturn over the next year, and a quarter reported there was uncertainty, or no security in their jobs, more than 60 per cent believed their jobs were secure, or probably secure.
While some said the hard times could cause businesses to fall over, it was suggested this could get rid of some "cowboys". Nearly 60 per cent believed the industry would emerge stronger when it eventually recovered.
The eBoss survey found:
* 70 per cent of architects believe the building industry is looking at a worsening situation throughout 2009.
* 45 per cent believe the situation will begin to improve in 2010.
* 80 per cent believe the industry will start to recover in 2011.
* 10 per cent of respondents have secured a year or more of work.