There were 10 out of 12 months of increasing demand for design services in 2014, and the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) points to a healthy outlook for the nonresidential construction industry. 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 December ABI score was 52.2, up from a mark of 50.9 in November. This score reflects an increase in design activity (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 58.2, following a mark of 58.8 the previous month. Design contracts posted a mark of 49.9, after a 54.9 score in November.
“Business conditions continue to be the strongest at architecture firms in the South and the Western regions,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “Particularly encouraging is the continued solid upturn in design activity at institutional firms, since public sector facilities were the last nonresidential building project type to recover from the downturn.”
Key December ABI highlights:
- Regional averages: South (56.8), West (52.9), Midwest (50.8), Northeast (45.5)
- Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (55.7), institutional (52.5), commercial / industrial (51.2), mixed practice (45.8)
- Project inquiries index: 58.2
- Design contracts index: 49.9
The regional and sector categories are calculated as a 3-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.