Business conditions at architecture firms continue to improve. 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 December ABI score was 52.0, down from the mark of 53.2 in November. 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 59.4, down slightly from the 59.6 mark of the previous month.

“While it’s not an across the board recovery, we are hearing a much more positive outlook in terms of demand for design services,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Ph.D., Hon. AIA. “Moving into 2013, we are expecting this trend to continue and conditions improve at a slow and steady rate. That said, we remain concerned that continued uncertainty over the outcomes of budget sequestration and the debt ceiling could impact further economic growth.”

Key December ABI highlights:

  • Regional averages: Midwest (55.7), Northeast (53.1), South (51.2), West (49.6)
  • Sector index breakdown: commercial/industrial (53.4), mixed practice (53.0), institutional (50.9), multi-family residential (50.5)
  • Project inquiries index: 59.4

The regional and sector categories are calculated as a 3-month moving average, whereas the index and inquiries are monthly numbers.