During the first two months of 2011, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) is not exhibiting the strength of business conditions that were seen in the final quarter of 2010. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine- to 12-month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA), Washington, D.C., reported the February ABI score was 50.6, up slightly from a reading of 50.0 the previous month. This score reflects a modest increase in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 56.4, compared to a mark of 56.5 in December.

“Overall demand for design services seems to be treading water over the last two months,” says AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “We’ve been preaching patience and cautious optimism for a full recovery because there continues to be a wide range of business conditions for architecture firms that are also influenced by firm size, practice specialties and regional location. We still expect the road to recovery to move at a slow, but steady pace.”

Key February ABI highlights:

  • Regional averages: Midwest (55.3), South (50.1), West (49.1), Northeast (46.4)
  • Sector index breakdown: commercial/industrial (55.0), mixed practice (51.3),•multi-family residential (49.7), institutional (48.9)
  • Project inquiries index: 56.4