April brought about another drop in design activity according to the latest Architecture Billings Index (ABI) from the American Institute of Architects (AIA). April’s ABI score was 48.8, a significant decline from March’s score of 51.7. This is the second decrease in design activity reported by the ABI with January having a score of 49.9. (All scores above 50 indicate an increase in billings.) It appeared that everything was back on track with back-to-back scores above 50 in February and March, but it appears that this past winter’s extreme weather is still having an impact.
The positive from the latest report is that both the new projects inquiry index and the design contracts index have had two consecutive months of increases. The project inquiries index was at 60.1 and the design contracts index had a score of 53.1 in April.
Reviewing the three-month regional averages, we get some insight on how the winter affected certain areas of the country. The South (55.8) remained the strongest region for architecture billings and the Northeast (43.2) continued to decline. The West region’s three-month average rose from 50.4 in March to 52.9 in April. The Midwest decreased slightly to 49.9 after hitting a score of 51.0 in March.
All sectors saw a decrease in their three-month average in April, after showing improvements across all sectors last month. Institutional (51.8) and Mixed Practice (51.8) were the only sectors above 50, while Multi-family Residential (49.0) and Commercial/Industrial (48.9) were hovering just below the 50 mark.
The ABI is an early indicator of future construction activity since construction spending typically follows architectural billings by nine to twelve months.