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After starting the year with an expected drop in design activity, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) is reporting that their Architecture Billings Index (ABI) recorded a slight increase in design activity in February.
According to the AIA, February’s index score was 50.4, slightly above January’s 49.9 level. The ABI records scores above 50 as an increase in billings.
However, the AIA added that its new projects inquiry index was 56.6 last month, down from a reading of 58.7 the previous month. Breaking the country down into quarters, the regional ABI averages favored the South (52.5) and Midwest (50.2) over the Northeast (48.0) and the West (46.7).
“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. “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.”
Nonetheless, February’s numbers were an improvement over January’s weak returns, which broke a nine-month stretch of positive billings.
“This easing in demand for design services is a bit of a surprise given the overall strength of the market over the [previous] nine months,” said Baker last month following the release of January’s billings data. “Likely some of this can be attributed to severe weather conditions in January. We will have a better sense if there is a reason for more serious concern over the next couple of months.”