Wednesday, October 21, 2020

AIA: "Architectural billings slowdown moderated in September"

by Calculated Risk on 10/21/2020 10:33:00 AM

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

From the AIA: Architectural billings slowdown moderated in September

A slight improvement in business conditions has led to fewer architecture firms reporting declining billings, according to a new report today from The American Institute of Architects (AIA).

AIA’s ABI score for September was 47.0 compared to 40.0 in August (any score below 50 indicates a decline in firm billings). Last month’s score indicates overall revenue at U.S architecture firms continued to decline from August to September, however, the pace of decline slowed significantly. Inquiries into new projects during September grew for the second time since February, with a score of 57.2 compared to 51.6 in August. The value of new design contracts moderated to a score of 48.9 in September from 46.0 the previous month.

“Despite the multi-family residential sector showing signs of improvement, overall business conditions are recovering at a disappointingly slow pace,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “Other sectors may begin to stabilize in the coming months, but across the board improvement shouldn’t be expected until the economic impact of the pandemic subsides significantly.”
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• Regional averages: Midwest (45.6); West (45.6); South (43.7); Northeast (41.5)

• Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (54.0); mixed practice (47.3); commercial/industrial (43.3); institutional (40.5)
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 47.0 in September, up from 40.0 in August. Anything below 50 indicates contraction 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.

This index has been below 50 for seven consecutive months.  This represents a significant decrease in design services, and suggests a decline in CRE investment through the first half of 2021 (This usually leads CRE investment by 9 to 12 months).

This weakness is not surprising since certain segments of CRE are struggling, especially offices and retail.