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Architecture Billings Index Sending Most Positive Signals in Over a Year

Amidst a continued high level of inquiries for possible new projects, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) reached its highest mark since August 2008, just before the serious credit problems emerged in our economy. 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 October ABI rating was 46.1, up sharply from 43.1 in September. This score, however, indicates a continued decline in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry score was 58.5, following the 59.1 mark in September.

“This news could prove to be an early signal towards a recovery for the design and construction industry,” says AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “On the other hand, because we continue to get reports of architecture firms struggling in a competitive marketplace with a continued decline in commercial property values, it is far too early to think we are out of the woods.”

Key October ABI highlights:

• Regional averages: South (46.1), Northeast (44.3), Midwest (43.0), West (42.8)

• Sector index breakdown: institutional (48.7), multi-family residential (45.4), commercial / industrial (41.7), mixed practice (39.1),

• Project inquiries index: 58.5

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.

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