Architecture Billings Index shows strong demand for institutional, mixed-practice design

Demand for institutional projects surges in second half of year  

October 23, 2014 |

With all geographic regions and building project sectors showing positive conditions, there continues to be a heightened level of demand for design services signaled in the latest Architecture Billings Index (ABI).

The American Institute of Architects reported the September ABI score was 55.2, up from a mark of 53.0 in August. This score reflects an increase in design activity (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 64.8, following a mark of 62.6 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 AIA has added a new indicator measuring the trends in new design contracts at architecture firms that can provide a strong signal of the direction of future architecture billings. The score for design contracts in August was 56.8.

“Strong demand for apartment buildings and condominiums has been one of the main drivers in helping to keep the design and construction market afloat in recent years,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “There continues to be a healthy market for those types of design projects, but the recently resurgent Institutional sector is leading to broader growth for the entire construction industry.”

Key September ABI highlights:

• Regional averages: South (55.3) , Midwest (55.1), West (54.2), Northeast (51.0)

• Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (55.3), institutional (54.9), mixed practice (53.8), commercial / industrial (50.8)

• Project inquiries index: 64.8

• Design contracts index: 56.8

The regional and sector categories are calculated as a 3-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.

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