After beginning the year with a decline, the Architecture Billings Index has posted three consecutive months of increasing demand for design activity at architecture firms. 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 April ABI score was 50.6, down from the mark of 51.9 in the previous month. This score still reflects an increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 56.9, down from a reading of 58.1 the previous month.
“Architects continue to report a wide range of business conditions, with unusually high variation in design activity across the major building categories,” said AIA chief economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “The strong growth in design contracts—the strongest score for this indicator since last summer—certainly suggests that firms will be reporting growth in billings over the next several months.”
Key April ABI highlights:
Regional averages: South (52.2), Northeast (51.5), West (50.8), Midwest (50.8)
Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (53.7), commercial/industrial (52.0), mixed practice (50.0), institutional (49.0)
Project inquiries index: 56.9
Design contracts index: 54.3
The regional and sector categories are calculated as a three-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.