January Architecture Billings Index Dips into Negative Territory

The monthly Architecture Billings Index (ABI) from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has dipped back into negative terrain for the first month of 2016, following a primarily positive performance in 2015.  

The AIA has reported a January ABI score of 49.6, which is slightly down from the mark of 51.3 in the previous month. Reflecting the approximate nine to 12 month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending, the ABI serves as a leading economic indicator of construction activity. Since any mark above 50 indicates an increase in billings, this score reflects a minor decrease in design services. Additionally, the new projects inquiry index was reported as 55.3, down from a reading of 60.5 in December.

“The fundamentals are mostly sound in the nonresidential design and construction market,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA. “January was a rocky month throughout the economy, with falling oil prices, international economic concerns, and with steep declines in stock market valuations in the U.S. and elsewhere. Some of the fallout of this uncertainty may have affected progress on design projects.” 

Key highlights from January include the positive regional averages of 50.8, 50.4, and 50.3 for the West, Northeast, and South, respectively. The Midwest mark came in slightly below at 48.9. The project inquiries national index for January was reported as 55.3, which is down from 60.5 in the previous month, while the design contracts index shows a dip from 52.2 to 50.9. The sector index breakdown includes a mark of 51.9 for multi-family residential, 50.5 for commercial and industrial, 49.9 for institutional, and 49.0 for mixed practice.