The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) returned to positive territory after a slight dip in August, and has seen growth in six of the nine months of the year so far. 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 September ABI score was 53.7, up from a mark of 49.1 in August. This score reflects an increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 61.0, down from a reading of 61.8 the previous month. “Aside from uneven demand for design services in the Northeast, all regions are project sectors are in good shape,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “Areas of concern are shifting to supply issues for the industry, including volatility in building materials costs, a lack of a deep enough talent pool to keep up with demand, as well as a lack of contractors to execute design work.”
Key September ABI highlights:
• Regional averages: South (54.5), Midwest (54.2), West (51.7) Northeast (43.7)
• Sector index breakdown: mixed practice (52.6), institutional (51.5), commercial / industrial (50.9) multi-family residential (49.5)
• Project inquiries index: 61.0
• Design contracts index: 53.2
The regional and sector categories are calculated as a 3-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.