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Strong Conditions Persist for Architecture Billings Index

Long struggling Northeast region starting to rebound

The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) is reflecting healthy and sustained demand for design services in nearly all nonresidential project types. 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 July ABI score was 54.7, down a point from a mark of 55.7 in June. This score still reflects an increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 63.7, up slightly from a reading of 63.4 the previous month.

“On top of what has been a flurry of design activity in recent months, some architects are reporting a break in the logjam created by clients placing projects on hold for indefinite periods, which bodes well for business conditions in the months ahead,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “There is some uneasiness in the design community that rapid growth in construction costs could escalate beyond development capital and municipal budgets, which could trigger some contraction in the marketplace down the road.”

Key July ABI highlights:

  • Regional averages: Midwest (58.2), South (55.7), West (53.8) Northeast (53.5)
  • Sector index breakdown: institutional (57.3), mixed practice (56.8), commercial / industrial (53.4) multi-family residential (49.8)
  • Project inquiries index: 63.7
  • Design contracts index: 54.5

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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