Showing a steady increase in the demand for design services, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) continues to accelerate, as it reached its second highest level of the year. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to 12 month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the September ABI score was 54.3, up from a mark of 53.8 in August.
This score reflects an increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 58.6, down from the reading of 63.0 the previous month.
“The prolonged economic downturn that has affected the design and construction industry has actually resulted in the increased productivity levels as reported by architecture firms,” said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “In addition to new approaches to business challenges, a very competitive marketplace, the utilization of new technologies, and a renewed focus on efficiency have architecture firms realizing all-time highs in workplace productivity, and these new efficiencies can greatly benefit clients from a project timeline and budget standpoint.”
Key September ABI highlights:
- Regional averages: West (60.6), South (54.1), Midwest (51.0), Northeast (50.7)
- Sector index breakdown: commercial / industrial (57.9), multi-family residential (55.6), mixed practice (55.4), institutional (50.4)
- Project inquiries index: 58.6
The regional and sector categories are calculated as a 3-month moving average, whereas the index and inquiries are monthly numbers.
The Architecture Billings Index (ABI), produced by the AIA Economics & Market Research Group, is an economic indicator that provides an approximately nine to 12 month glimpse into the future of nonresidential construction spending activity. The diffusion indexes contained in the full report are derived from a monthly “Work-on-the-Boards” survey that is sent to a panel of AIA member-owned firms. Participants are asked whether their billings increased, decreased, or stayed the same in the month that just ended as compared to the prior month, and the results are then compiled into the ABI.
These monthly results are also seasonally adjusted to allow for comparison to prior months. The monthly ABI index scores are centered around 50, with scores above 50 indicating an aggregate increase in billings, and scores below 50 indicating a decline. The regional and sector data are formulated using a three-month moving average. More information on the ABI and the analysis of its relationship to construction activity can be found in the White Paper Architecture Billings as a Leading Indicator of Construction: Analysis of the Relationship Between a Billings Index and Construction Spending on the AIA website.