Architectural billings inch up after wading into negative territory

Dive Brief:

  • The Architectural Billings Index rose to 50.3 in February, up from January's score of 49.6, the American Institute of Architects reported Wednesday. 
  • The February score signals a slight rise in design services, as any mark above 50 indicates an increase in billings. The new projects inquiry index rose to 59.5, up from 55.3 in January.
  • Within segments of the index, multifamily residential reached the highest mark, with a score of 53.0, followed by commercial/industrial at 52.3, institutional at 48.1, and mixed-practice at 47.7.

Dive Insight:

February's move into positive territory was welcome news after the January score slipped into negative ground for the first time in five months.

AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker said in a release that he expects the next few months to bring even stronger demand for design services, as "March and April are traditionally the busiest months for architecture firms ... Hopefully the relatively mild weather conditions recently in most parts of the country will help design and construction activity move ahead at a somewhat faster pace."

The ABI is an indicator of future construction spending — with a lead time of about nine to 12 months — as design services lead to new commercial projects.

This month has brought mostly positive reports for the construction industry, as builder confidence held steady at a score of 58, housing starts rose 5.2% in February to a 1.18 million annualized rate, and the value of February construction starts surged 10%. However, on the negative side, existing home sales dropped 7.1% last month. 

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