Wednesday, March 18, 2015

AIA: Architecture Billings Index increases slightly in February

by Bill McBride on 3/18/2015 09:54:00 AM

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

From the AIA: Architecture Billings Index Improves in February

After its first negative score in ten months, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) showed a nominal increase in design activity in February, and has been positive ten out of the past twelve months. 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 February ABI score was 50.4, up slightly from a mark of 49.9 in January. This score reflects a minor increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 56.6, down from a reading of 58.7 the previous month.

“The health of the institutional market has been the key factor for positive business conditions for the design and construction industry in recent months, and it is encouraging to see that sector remain on solid footing,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “However, we’re seeing some slowing in the other major construction sectors. Design billings for residential projects had its first negative month in over three years, and commercial design billings have seen only modest growth in recent years.”
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 50.4 in February, up from 49.9 in January. Anything above 50 indicates expansion in demand for architects' services.

Note: This includes commercial and industrial facilities like hotels and office buildings, multi-family residential, as well as schools, hospitals and other institutions.  The multi-family residential was negative for the first time in over three years - and might be indicating a slowdown for apartments. (just one month)

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 index was mostly positive over the last year, suggesting an increase in CRE investment in 2015.