The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) returned to growth mode in February, after a weak showing in January. 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 February ABI score was 50.7, up from a score of 49.5 in the previous month. This score reflects a minor increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 61.5, up from a reading of 60.0 the previous month, while the new design contracts index climbed from 52.1 to 54.7.
“The sluggish start to the year in architecture firm billings should give way to stronger design activity as the year progresses,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “New project inquiries have been very strong through the first two months of the year, and in February new design contracts at architecture firms posted their largest monthly gain in over two years.”
Key February ABI highlights:
• Regional averages: Midwest (52.4), South (50.5), Northeast (50.0), West (47.5)
• Sector index breakdown: institutional (51.8), multi-family residential (49.3), mixed practice (49.2), commercial / industrial (48.9)
• Project inquiries index: 61.5
• Design contracts index: 54.7
The regional and sector categories are calculated as a 3-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.