Note: This index is a leading indicator primarily for new Commercial Real Estate (CRE) investment.
Business conditions at architecture firms continue to improve. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the December ABI score was 52.0, down from the mark of 53.2 in November. This score reflects an increase in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 59.4, down slightly from the 59.6 mark of the previous month.
“While it’s not an across the board recovery, we are hearing a much more positive outlook in terms of demand for design services,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “Moving into 2013 we are expecting this trend to continue and conditions improve at a slow and steady rate. That said, we remain concerned that continued uncertainty over the outcomes of budget sequestration and the debt ceiling could impact further economic growth.”
• Regional averages: Midwest (55.7), Northeast (53.1), South (51.2), West (49.6)
• Sector index breakdown: commercial / industrial (53.4), mixed practice (53.0), institutional (50.9), multi-family residential (50.5)
This graph shows the Architecture Billings Index since 1996. The index was at 52.0 in December, down from 53.2 in November. Anything above 50 indicates expansion in demand for architects’ services.
Every building sector is now expanding and new project inquiries are strongly positive. Note: This includes commercial and industrial facilities like hotels and office buildings, multi-family residential, as well as schools, hospitals and other institutions.
According to the AIA, there is an “approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending” on non-residential construction. This suggests some increase in CRE investment in 2013.