Wednesday, May 22, 2013

AIA: Architecture Billings Index indicates decreased demand for design services in April

by Calculated Risk on 5/22/2013 11:59:00 AM

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

From AIA: Architecture Billings Index Reverts into Negative Territory for First Time in Nine Months

After indicating increasing demand for design services for the better part of a year, the Architecture Billings Index has reversed course in April. 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 April ABI score was 48.6, down from a mark of 51.9 in March. This score reflects a decrease in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings) and is the lowest mark since July 2012. The new projects inquiry index was 58.5, down from the reading of 60.1 the previous month.

“Project approval delays are having an adverse effect on the design and construction industry, but again and again we are hearing that it is extremely difficult to obtain financing to move forward on real estate projects,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “There are other challenges that have prevented a broader recovery that we will examine in the coming months if this negative trajectory continues. However, given that inquiries for new projects continue to be strong, we’re hopeful that this is just a short-term dip.”
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 48.6 in April, down from 51.9 in March. Anything below 50 indicates contraction in demand for architects' services.  This decline followed eight consecutive months of expansion.

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.  The previous increases in this index suggest some increase in CRE investment in the second half of 2013.