Institutional Market Continues to be Lone Bright Spot in Non-Residential Sector

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While conditions have improved somewhat for three consecutive months, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) continues to point to unfavorable conditions for the non-residential construction market. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI shows an approximate nine to 12 month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the August ABI rating was 47.6, up slightly from the 46.8 mark in July (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The inquiries for new projects score was 52.4. There is, however, continued demand for projects such as schools, hospitals, and government buildings with the institutional category of the ABI remaining positive going all the way back to 2004.

“The recent figures over the last quarter are no real surprise given the overall state of the economy,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “The news for industries affected by the construction industry is that looking back 12 to 18 months, the numbers were extremely healthy. That means many of those projects are currently in or entering the construction phase so there should still be demand for labor and building materials, and later on interiors, computer equipment and the like.”

Key August ABI highlights:
Regional averages: Midwest (49.4), West (49.2), Northeast (45.2), South (45.0)
Sector index breakdown: institutional (52.2), commercial / industrial (47.5), mixed practice (44.8) multi-family residential (40.8)
Project inquiries index: 52.4

The Architecture Billings Index is derived from a monthly “Work-on-the-Boards” survey and produced by the AIA Economics Market Research Group. Based on a comparison of data compiled since the survey’s inception in 1995 with figures from the Department of Commerce on Construction Put in Place, the findings amount to a leading economic indicator that provides an approximately nine to 12 month glimpse into the future of non-residential construction activity.

The diffusion indexes contained in the full report are derived from a monthly survey sent to a panel of AIA member-owned firms. Participants are asked whether their billings increased, decreased, or stayed the same in the month that just ended. According to the proportion of respondents choosing each option, a score is generated, which represents an index value for each month.

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