Things are looking good in the design and construction industry, according to the latest Architecture Billings Index (ABI) released by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), which reported that the July ABI score was 55.8, up from 53.5 in June, and the highest mark since 2007. (An index score above 50 indicates growth, whereas a score below 50 indicates contraction.) July’s score marks the third consecutive month of growth, breaking the recent ABI pattern of two months of progress after two months of contractions.
The new projects inquiry index was 66.0, barely below June’s score of 66.4. Scores in this category have consistently remained above 50 since February 2009.
AIA’s newest metric follows the trends in new design contracts, which can signal the future direction of architecture billings. July’s score was 54.9—down from the peak last month at 55.7, which was the category’s highest value since the AIA started using the metric in October 2010.
“Business conditions for the design and construction marketplace, and those industries associated with it, appear to be positioned well for continued growth in the coming months,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA. “The key to a more widespread boost in design activity continues to be the institutional sector which is starting to exhibit signs of life after languishing for the better part of the last five-plus years.”
Business is also looking bright for landscape architecture firms, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects’ second quarter 2014 Business Quarterly survey, which reported that 84.7 percent indicated stable to significantly higher inquiries for new work, an increase from last quarter’s 80.2 percent. In addition, 82.42 percent reported stable to significantly higher billable hours, compared to 72.2 percent last quarter.
Here are the national and sector breakdowns for the July ABI report.
National Billings: In its third consecutive month of growth, the national billings index grew from 53.5 to 55.8, reaching the highest score since 2007.
Project inquiries: Down slightly from June’s 66.4, July’s score of 66.0 indicates the first value decrease in this category in five months.
Design Contracts: July’s score of 54.9 is a decrease from June’s 55.7, but is slightly above the average for design contracts in the last four months.
Northeast: July’s score rose a little over a point from 54.4 in June to 55.5 last month. The Northeast received its second consecutive score above 50 since August 2013.
Midwest: Although July’s score of 54.1 is deflated slightly from June’s 54.4, the Midwest has been in the positive for three months, following six months of contractions.
South: July’s score, 55.1, is the exact same as its score last month. The South boasts nearly whole two years of growth.
West: In a jump from June’s 50.7 to July’s 53.5, the West experienced its second consecutive month of growth following two months of contractions.
Multifamily Residential: July’s score fell by two points from 58.5 to 56.5, sending this sector back nearly to its value in May (56.4).
Commercial/Industrial: The value in this sector has been dropping for the past two months, falling from 52.4 in June to 51.2 in July.
Institutional: July’s score of 53.3 is an increase of almost two points from June. This marks the second month of growth following nine months of contractions.
Mixed Practice: This sector advanced by nearly four points from June to July. The mixed practice category has an average value increase of about 3.6 in the last three months.
Charts: Kristopher Henson; Source: AIA Architecture Billings Index