An increasing demand for design services in the United States continues to strengthen the Architecture Billings Index (ABI). As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has reported the February ABI score as 54.9, up slightly from a mark of 54.2 in January. This score reflects a strong increase in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). In addition, the new projects inquiry index was 64.8, higher than the reading of 63.2 the previous month and its highest mark since January 2007.
“Conditions have been strengthening in all regions and construction sectors for the last several months,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “Still, we also continue to hear a mix of business conditions in the marketplace as this hesitant recovery continues to unfold.”
Key February ABI highlights:
- Billings: 54.9, the highest billings score since November 2007, and the seventh straight month of growth.
- Inquiries: 64.8, the highest score for project inquiries since January 2007.
- Northeast: 56.7, the highest score since December 2007, and is the sixth straight month above 50.
- Midwest: 54.7, down a tenth of a point from last month, but it is the fifth straight month above 50.
- South: 52.7, the highest score since August, and it is the eighth straight month above 50.
- West: 54.7, the highest score since July 2007, and it is the seventh straight month above 50.
- Multifamily Residential: 60.9, highest score since October 2004. It is also the 10th straight month above 50, and the sector has been above 50 for 16 of the past 17 months, as well as 24 of the past 30 months and 19 of the past 24 months. This sector has been by far the most productive since the real estate bubble burst and the financial crisis devastated the economy.
- Mixed Practice: 56.9, the highest score since July 2007, and it is the sixth straight month above 50.
- Commercial: 53.3, the highest score since March, and it is the fifth straight month above 50.
- Institutional: 50.7, the same as last month, and it is the seventh straight month above 50.
The regional and sector categories are calculated as a 3-month moving average, whereas the index and inquiries are monthly numbers.