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Architecture Billings Index Backslides Slightly

After seven months of steady growth in the  demand for design services, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) paused in September. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the September ABI score was 49.1, down from a score of 53.7 in the previous month. This score reflects a slight decrease in design services provided by U.S. architecture firms (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 59.0, down from a reading of 62.5 the previous month, while the new design contracts index eased somewhat from 54.2 to 52.9.

“We’ve seen unexpectedly strong numbers in design activity for most of 2017, so the pause in September should be viewed in that context” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “Project inquiries and new design contracts remain healthy, and the continued strength in most sectors and regions indicates stability industry-wide.”

Key September ABI highlights:

  • Regional averages: Northeast (56.9), South (54.0), Midwest (50.4), West (48.8)
  • Sector index breakdown: commercial/industrial (54.0), mixed practice (52.2), multifamily residential (51.0), institutional (51.0)
  • Project inquiries index: 59.0
  • Design contracts index: 52.9

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