Following a two-month soft patch, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) rose almost two full points in July. 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. Washington, D.C.-based American Institute of Architects (AIA) recently reported the July ABI score was 47.9, up from a reading of 46.0 the previous month. This score reflects a continued decline in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index dropped substantially from 57.7 to 53.1.

“Business conditions at design firms remain quite volatile,” says AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Ph.D., Hon. AIA. “While this recent uptick is encouraging, this state of the industry is likely to persist for a while as we continue to receive a mixed bag of feedback on the condition of the design market from improving to flat to being paralyzed by uncertainty.”

Key July ABI highlights:

  • Regional averages: South (47.9), Northeast (47.2), Midwest (46.7), West (45.2)
  • Sector index breakdown: commercial / industrial (50.4), institutional (47.9), multi-family residential (47.5), mixed practice (42.9)
  • Project inquiries index: 53.1