September’s Architecture Billings Index: Better than August but …

From Archinect News

A new report issued by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) shows that the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) moderated in September following relatively bleak August figures.

According to the new report “design activity shows signs of remaining sluggish at U.S. architecture firms,” though there are some bright spots to report.

While the national ABI score—49.7—falls slightly below the 50.0 threshold that would signify growth in billings, the number of new project inquiries (59.0) and design contracts (54.4) executed by firms are both up sharply. Those scores bode well for future surveys, as inquiries may lead to more contracts being signed in the future. The latest figures show a rebound from the August score of 47.2, a recent low-water mark for billings. In July, the index stood at 50.1, a modest improvement from June’s 49.1 figure.

The report’s regional numbers paint a more nuanced picture, as well. As has often been the case over the last year, the South (52.3) and West (51.3) markets, where a significant amount of residential, commercial, and office building are taking place, lead growth across the nation. By comparison, the Northeast (46.3) and Midwest (45.3) show lower billings figures, overall.

“Though still in negative territory, the moderating billings score along with the rebound in design contracts and inquiries serve as a continued note of caution for the industry,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “Continued weakness in the larger economy still doesn’t bode well for future design services, which will likely see continued volatility in the months ahead.”