After beginning the year with a decline, the Architecture Billings Index has posted three consecutive months of increasing demand for design activity at architecture firms. 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 April ABI score was 50.6, down from the mark of 51.9 in the previous month. This score still reflects an increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 56.9, down from a reading of 58.1 the previous month.
“Architects continue to report a wide range of business conditions, with unusually high variation in design activity across the major building categories,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “The strong growth in design contracts – the strongest score for this indicator since last summer — certainly suggests that firms will be reporting growth in billings over the next several months.”
Key April ABI highlights:
- Regional averages: South (52.2), Northeast (51.5), West (50.8), Midwest (50.8)
- Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (53.7), commercial / industrial (52.0), mixed practice (50.0), institutional (49.0)
- Project inquiries index: 56.9
- Design contracts index: 54.3
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.