The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) concluded the year in positive terrain, with the December reading capping off three straight months of growth in design billings. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the December ABI score was 55.9, up sharply from 50.6 in the previous month. This score reflects the largest increase in design services in 2016 (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 57.2, down from a reading of 59.5 the previous month.
“The sharp upturn in design activity as we wind down the year is certainly encouraging. This bodes well for the design and construction sector as we enter the new year”,” says AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD, in a press release. “However, December is an atypical month for interpreting trends, so the coming months will tell us a lot more about conditions that the industry is likely to see in 2017.”
Key December ABI highlights:
· Regional averages: Midwest (54.4), Northeast (54.0), South (53.8), West (48.8)
· Sector index breakdown: commercial / industrial (54.3), institutional (53.3), mixed practice (51.9), multi-family residential (50.6)
· Project inquiries index: 57.2
· Design contracts index: 51.2
The regional and sector categories are calculated as a 3-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.