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 ten out of the past twelve months.
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.
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 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 3-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.
About the AIA Architecture Billings Index
The Architecture Billings Index (ABI), produced by the AIA Economics & Market Research Group, is a leading economic indicator that provides an approximately nine to twelve 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 recently released White Paper, Designing the Construction Future: Reviewing the Performance and Extending the Applications of the AIA’s Architecture Billings Index on the AIA web site.