After three straight months of improving conditions, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) fell nearly three points. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the May ABI rating was 45.8, down substantially from a reading of 48.4 the previous month. This score reflects a continued decline in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings), and comes on the heels of the highest score since January 2008 when revenue at architecture firms headed into recession. The new projects inquiry index was 55.5.
“This dip is somewhat of a surprise since it appeared that conditions were pointing towards a recovery,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “The overriding issue affecting the entire real estate sector is unusual caution on the part of lending institutions to provide credit for construction projects that apparently would be successful in this economic environment.”
He added, “An amendment has passed the House that would help lenders and borrowers as they attempt to work out their loans under terms that are mutually acceptable, avoid large numbers of commercial foreclosures, and free up credit that can be used more constructively. If this passes the in Senate then some much needed relief will available for the struggling design and construction industry.”
Key May ABI highlights:
-Regional averages: Northeast (50.6), Midwest (48.5), South (45.9), West (42.9)
-Sector index breakdown: commercial / industrial (51.3), multi-family residential (46.9),
-mixed practice (46.8), institutional (43.4),
-Project inquiries index: 55.5
About the AIA Architecture Billings Index
The Architecture Billings Index is derived from a monthly “Work-on-the-Boards” survey and produced by the AIA Economics & Market Research Group. Based on a comparison of data compiled since the survey’s inception in 1995 with figures from the Department of Commerce on Construction Put in Place, the findings amount to a leading economic indicator that provides an approximately nine to twelve month glimpse into the future of nonresidential construction activity. The diffusion indexes contained in the full report are derived from a monthly survey 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. According to the proportion of respondents choosing each option, a score is generated, which represents an index value for each month. The regional and sector data is formulated using a three-month moving average.
About The American Institute of Architects
For over 150 years, members of the American Institute of Architects have worked with each other and their communities to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings and cityscapes. By using sustainable design practices, materials, and techniques, AIA architects are uniquely poised to provide the leadership and guidance needed to provide solutions to address climate change. AIA architects walk the walk on sustainable design. Visit www.aia.org