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Architecture Billings Index Returns to Positive Territory

Institutional project category sees greatest demand for design services

Led by growing demand for new schools, hospitals, cultural facilities and municipal buildings, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) increased in May following its second monthly drop this year. 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 May ABI score was 51.9, up from a mark of 48.8 in April. This score reflects an 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 60.1 the previous month.

“As has been the case for the past several years, while the design and construction industry has been in a recovery phase, we continue to receive mixed signals on business conditions in the marketplace,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “Generally, the business climate is favorable, but there are still construction sectors and regions of the country that are struggling, producing the occasional backslide in the midst of what seems to be growing momentum for the entire industry.”

Key May ABI highlights:

  • Regional averages: South (54.6), Midwest (52.3), West (49.9) Northeast (45.2)
  • Sector index breakdown: institutional (55.2), mixed practice (52.5), commercial / industrial (48.3) multi-family residential (45.9)
  • Project inquiries index: 61.5
  • Design contracts index: 53.4

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.

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