Billings at architecture firms in September increased at their fastest pace since late 2010. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) reflects the approximate nine- to 12-month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the September ABI score was 51.6, up from the mark of 50.2 in August. 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 57.3, compared to a mark of 57.2 the previous month.

“Going back to the third quarter of 2011, the multi-family residential sector has been the best performing segment of the construction field,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Ph.D., Hon. AIA. “With high foreclosure levels in recent years, more stringent mortgage approvals and fewer people in the market to buy homes there has been a surge in demand for rental housing. The upturn in residential activity will hopefully spur more nonresidential construction.”

Key September ABI highlights:

  • Regional averages: West (53.4), South (51.9), Northeast (49.5), Midwest (47.2)
  • Sector index breakdown: multifamily residential (57.3), institutional (51.0), commercial/industrial (48.4), mixed practice (47.8)

The regional and sector categories are calculated as a three-month moving average, whereas the index and inquiries are monthly numbers.