The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) score for March was 51.9, up from 50.3 in the previous month, according to the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The new projects inquiry index was 58.1, down from 59.5 the previous month. Any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings.
The score reflects 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 12-month lead-time between architecture billings and construction spending.
“The first quarter was somewhat disappointing in terms of the growth of design activity, but fortunately expanded a bit entering the traditionally busy spring season. The Midwest is lagging behind the other regions, but otherwise, business conditions are generally healthy across the country,” says Kermit Baker, AIA chief economist. “As the institutional market has cooled somewhat after a surge in design activity a year ago, the multi-family sector is reaccelerating at a healthy pace.”
Key March ABI highlights:
Regional averages: South, 52.4; Northeast, 51.0; West, 50.4; Midwest, 49.8
Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential, 55.7; commercial/industrial, 51.8; mixed practice, 50.0; institutional, 48.0
Project inquiries index: 58.1
Design contracts index: 51.8
The regional and sector categories are calculated as a 3-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.