With the moody Architectural Billings Index landing in positive territory for the fourth straight month in February, the architectural community might begin to exhale a sigh of relief. Project inquiries alone saw its highest spike since 2007, up from 61.2 to 63.4 (anything over 50 indicates an increase in billings).
But with the wild swings of 2011 still fresh, AIA’s chief economist Kermit Baker steadfastly noted caution, particularly on the part of clients. “The factors that are preventing a more accelerated recovery are persistent caution from clients to move ahead with new projects, and a continued difficulty in accessing financing for projects that developers have decided to pursue,” Baker said in a statement. Nevertheless, Baker acknowledged that this month’s index was more good news for the design and construction industry.
The rally was led by the commercial/industrial sector, which jumped from 52.2 to 55.1. This was followed by residential at 53.3, which came up from 52.6. But the institutional sector hovered at 50.3 from 51.1. Mixed practices missed their mark again, staying below 50 at 46.3, not much of a change from January’s 46.1.
Regionally, the Midwest took the lead once again at 56.0, up from 53.7. The South held their own at 51.3, not much different than January’s 51.6. The Northeast bumped up to 51.0 from 50.7. Unfortunately, the West didn’t join the party this time around; February’s 46.6 barely budged from January’s 45.6.