After its first negative score in 10 months, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) showed a nominal increase in design activity in February, and has been positive 10 out of the past 12 months.
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 February ABI score was 50.4, up slightly from a mark of 49.9 in January. This score reflects a minor increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 56.6, down from a reading of 58.7 the previous month.
“The health of the institutional market has been the key factor for positive business conditions for the design and construction industry in recent months, and it is encouraging to see that sector remain on solid footing,” said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “However, we’re seeing some slowing in the other major construction sectors. Design billings for residential projects had its first negative month in over three years, and commercial design billings have seen only modest growth in recent years.”
Key February ABI highlights:
Regional averages: South (52.5), Midwest (50.2), Northeast (48.0), West (46.7)
Sector index breakdown: institutional (52.2), commercial/industrial (51.4), multi-family residential (48.9), mixed practice (45.3)
Project inquiries index: 56.6
Design contracts index: 50.0
The regional and sector categories are calculated as a three-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.