The first quarter of 2011 has seen the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) remain virtually unchanged and right at, or slightly above, the break-even level. 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 March ABI score was 50.5, a negligible decrease from a reading of 50.6 the previous month. This score reflects a modest increase in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 58.7, up significantly from a mark of 56.4 in February.
“Currently, architecture firms are essentially caught swimming upstream in a situation where demand is not falling back into the negative territory, but also not exhibiting the same pace of increases seen at the end of 2010,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “The range of conditions reported continues to span a very wide spectrum with some firms reporting an improving business environment and even ramping up staffing, while others continue to operate in survival mode. The catalyst for a more robust recovery is likely financing, with stronger growth occurring only when lending institutions begin approving credit for construction projects with much greater regularity.”
Key March ABI highlights:
-Regional averages: Midwest (53.5), Northeast (51.4), West (50.6), South (49.7)
-Sector index breakdown: commercial / industrial (54.7), multi-family residential (50.8), mixed practice (49.8), institutional (48.0)
-Project inquiries index: 58.7
About the AIA Architecture Billings Index
The Architecture Billings Index (ABI), produced by the AIA Economics & Market Research Group, is a leading economic indicator that provides an approximately nine to twelve month glimpse into the future of nonresidential construction spending activity. The diffusion indexes contained in the full report are derived from a monthly “Work-on-the-Boards” survey that is 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 as compared to the prior month, and the results are then compiled into the ABI. These monthly results are also seasonally adjusted to allow for comparison to prior months. The monthly ABI index scores are centered around 50, with scores above 50 indicating an aggregate increase in billings, and scores below 50 indicating a decline. The regional and sector data are formulated using a three-month moving average. More information on the ABI and the analysis of its relationship to construction activity can be found in the White Paper Architecture Billings as a Leading Indicator of Construction: Analysis of the Relationship Between a Billings Index and Construction Spending on the AIA web site.
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. Members adhere to a code of ethics and professional conduct to ensure the highest standards in professional practice. Embracing their responsibility to serve society, AIA members engage civic and government leaders and the public in helping find needed solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation and world. Visit www.aia.org.