Wednesday, November 18, 2009

AIA: Architecture Billings Index Shows Contraction

by Bill McBride on 11/18/2009 09:30:00 AM

From the American Institute of Architects : Index remains in negative category despite improvement

Amidst a continued high level of inquiries for possible new projects, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) reached its highest mark since August 2008, just before the serious credit problems emerged in our economy. 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. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the October ABI rating was 46.1, up sharply from 43.1 in September. This score, however, indicates a continued decline in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry score was 58.5, following the 59.1 mark in September.

“This news could prove to be an early signal towards a recovery for the design and construction industry,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “On the other hand, because we continue to get reports of architecture firms struggling in a competitive marketplace with a continued decline in commercial property values, it is far too early to think we are out of the woods.”
AIA Architecture Billing Index Click on graph for larger image in new window.

This graph shows the Architecture Billings Index since 1996. The index has remained below 50, indicating falling demand, since January 2008.

Note: Nonresidential construction includes commercial and industrial facilities like hotels and office buildings, as well as schools, hospitals and other institutions.

Historically there is an "approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending" on commercial real estate (CRE). This suggests further significant declines in CRE investment through most of 2010, if not longer.