The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) has registered promising gains since late last fall, and, according to the AIA’s latest report on March billings, the ABI continues to find its footing in positive territory—but just barely. The overall March score was 50.4, indicating slight growth in demand for services (any score above 50 reflects increase in billings) but less growth than the previous month (the ABI was 51.0 in February).
Still, Kermit Baker, the AIA’s chief economist, was hopeful. “We are starting to hear more about improving conditions in the marketplace, with a greater sense of optimism that there will be greater demand for design services,” Baker said in a statement, in which he also made an effort to manage expectations, noting that there was not progress across-the-board. “There are still a number of architecture firms struggling, so progress is likely to be measured in inches rather than miles for the next few months.”
Indeed, the new projects inquiry index for March was 56.6, significantly down from February’s 63.4, and regional scores, which are three-month moving averages, remained mostly steady: the Midwest registered 54.1 (down from 56.0 in February); the Northeast saw the most improvement with its score of 53.9 (51.0 in February); the South averaged 50.1 (51.3 in February); while the West continued to flat-line in negative territory, remaining at 46.6.
Commercial/industrial billings charged ahead, registering 56.0 in March (up from 55.1), but unfortunately no other sector followed this lead: residential dropped to 51.9 from 53.3; institutional saw a decline, slipping to 47.7 from 50.3; and mixed practice continued to hover below 50, registering 47.2 after February’s 46.3.