This is probably not the start to 2015 that most people were hoping for with the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Architecture Billings Index (ABI) dropping below the score of 50 for the first time since April 2014 to 49.9 in January. A score of 49.9 means there was a slight decrease in design activity for the first month of the year. This is a bit of a letdown after December’s score of 52.7. Scores above 50 mean and increase in design activity and scores below 50 indicate a decrease.
It’s too early to tell if January’s score is indicative of what’s to come in 2015 or if the severe winter weather in the Northeast and other parts of the country played a role in decreased design activity. Based on the strong ABI scores from 2014, along with a big increase in construction spending last year and the 39,000 construction jobs added in January, chances are this is just a fluke and billings will increase and get back on track next month.
The three-month regional averages show an increase in the South (54.8) and the Midwest (50.6). Both the West (49.3) and the Northeast (46.0) had a decrease in design activity. These latest averages continue the trend of the South having the highest increase in activity and Northeast continuing to show decreased design activity.
The three-month averages for most of the sectors, Commercial/Industrial (50.9), Institutional (53.0) and Multi-family Residential (51.4), have all been above 50 since June 2014. The three-month average Mixed Practice design activity dropped below 50 in December and fell to 46.9 in January.
Again, with a score of 49.9 in January this shouldn’t be a cause for alarm, remember 50 is the baseline so a tenth of a point below is just a marginal decrease in design activity.