Wednesday, January 22, 2014

AIA: Architecture Billings Index declines in December

by Bill McBride on 1/22/2014 09:54:00 AM

Note: This index is a leading indicator primarily for new Commercial Real Estate (CRE) investment.

From AIA: Another Decline for Architecture Billings Index

Following consistently increasing demand for design services throughout most of 2013, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) has posted its first consecutive months of contraction since May and June of 2012. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the December ABI score was 48.5, down from a mark of 49.8 in November. This score reflects a decrease in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 59.2, up from the reading of 57.8 the previous month.

“What we thought last month was an isolated dip now bears closer examination to see what is causing the slowdown in demand for architectural services,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “It is possible that some of this can be attributed to the anxiety in the marketplace caused by the shutdown of the federal government, but it will be important to see how business conditions fare through the first quarter of the new year when we no longer have end of the year issues to deal with.”
emphasis added
AIA Architecture Billing Index Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the Architecture Billings Index since 1996. The index was at 48.5 in December, down from 49.8. Anything below 50 indicates contraction in demand for architects' services.  Still this index has indicated expansion in 14 of the last 17 months.

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.  Even when positive, this index was not as strong as during the '90s - or during the bubble years of 2004 through 2006 - because the vacancy rates are still high for many CRE sectors.  However, the readings last year do suggest some increase in CRE investment in 2014.

Last 10 Posts