Note: This index is a leading indicator primarily for new Commercial Real Estate (CRE) investment.
Billings at architecture firms accelerated to their strongest pace of growth since December 2010. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the October ABI score was 52.8, up from the mark of 51.6 in September. 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, compared to a mark of 57.3 the previous month.
“With three straight monthly gains – and the past two being quite strong – it’s beginning to look like demand for design services has turned the corner,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “With 2012 winding down on an upnote, and with the national elections finally behind us, there is a general sense of optimism. However, this is balanced by a tremendous amount of anxiety and uncertainty in the marketplace, which likely means that we’ll have a few more bumps before we enter a full-blown expansion.”
• Regional averages: South (52.8), Northeast (52.6), West (51.8), Midwest (50.8)
• Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (59.6), mixed practice (52.4), institutional (51.4), commercial / industrial (48.0)
Click on graph for larger image.
This graph shows the Architecture Billings Index since 1996. The index was at 52.8 in October, up from 51.6 in September. Anything above 50 indicates expansion in demand for architects’ services.
This increase is mostly being driven by demand for design of multi-family residential buildings – and this suggests there are more apartments coming (there are already quite a few apartments under construction . New project inquiries are also increasing. Note: This includes commercial and industrial facilities like hotels and office buildings, multi-family residential, as well as schools, hospitals and other institutions.
According to the AIA, there is an “approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending” on non-residential construction. This suggests some increase in CRE investment next year (it will be some time before investment in offices and malls increases significantly).
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