Note: This index is a leading indicator primarily for new Commercial Real Estate (CRE) investment.
Led by a still active multi-family housing market and sustained by solid levels of demand for new commercial and retail properties, the Architecture Billings Index has accelerated to its highest score in nearly a year. 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 May ABI score was 53.1, up sharply from the mark of 50.6 in the previous month. This score reflects an increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 60.1, up from a reading of 56.9 the previous month.
“Business conditions at design firms have hovered around the break-even rate for the better part of this year,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “Demand levels are solid across the board for all project types at the moment. Of particular note, the recent surge in design activity for institutional projects could be a harbinger of a new round of growth in the broader construction industry in the months ahead.”
• Regional averages: West (53.8), South (53.7), Northeast (51.2), Midwest (49.9)
• Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (53.7), institutional (53.0), commercial / industrial (51.0), mixed practice (51.0)
This graph shows the Architecture Billings Index since 1996. The index was at 53.1 in May, up from 50.6 in April. 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.
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 positive in 9 of the last 12 months, suggesting a further increase in CRE investment in 2016 and early 2017.