Architecture firms around the country are continuing to report strong billings growth even through the complications of the Delta variant. On the return-to-work front, short-term challenges remain—such as implementing and enforcing a business-wide vaccine policy—yet many firms are turning their attention back to developing long-term solutions to make our society healthier and more affordable.
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State of Affairs
55.6: Despite nationwide concerns about the Delta variant, August’s Architecture Billings Score (ABI) indicated strong billings growth. Most firms are reporting robust business conditions, receiving many inquiries about new projects, and are seeing contract values grow for new design work.
Despite the rising office vacancy rate, Wells Fargo expects a wave of new office buildings to increase supply in the next few years—good news for architects. Additionally, they project office markets in the Sun Belt to outperform traditional gateway markets, bolstering prospects for that ever-growing region.
Congress continues to negotiate an infrastructure package. There are two main infrastructure bills under consideration: The “Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework/ BIF” that the Senate passed in August (H.R. 3684) and a second bill to be passed through Budget Reconciliation. The House of Representatives suspended a vote on H.R. 3684 that had been planned for September 27 while Democrats continue to negotiate the size and scope of this second bill. Exact timing for action on both bills is unclear, but Congress extended some surface transportation programs to October 31, 2021. This establishes a new tentative deadline for Congress to act on H.R. 3684, or Congress will need to pass another extension of those surface transportation programs before they expire. AIA is continuing to advocate for investment in the building sector—notably schools, hospitals, affordable housing, and civic centers—to be included in both bills.
Meanwhile, Congress is expected to finalize a deal next week to raise the debt ceiling before the U.S. Treasury Department runs out of “extraordinary measures” to pay down U.S. receipts on October 18, 2021. The deal would raise the debt ceiling until early December. A default on the U.S. debt is unprecedented and Treasury Secretary Yellen warns that it could damage the economy and borrowing power of the federal government.