Architecture Billings Index up in November after a rough year

Predictions and Points

Architecture Billings Index up in November after a rough year

The AIA's Architecture Billings Index has finally shown an increase in demand for design services since October. (Daniel Mccullough/Unsplash)

For the second month in a row, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) grew slightly in November with an average national score of 51.9 (anything above 50 indicates an increase). The change, calculated by the American Institute of Architecture (AIA), comes just months after the ABI dipped to record lows in August, revealing the demand for design services in the U.S. had been dramatically declining.

Over the fall season, it seems things took a positive turn when the index rebounded with a score of 52.0 in October. Although November’s numbers are a bit lower, both new project inquiries and design contracts netted higher average scores of 60.9 and 52.9 respectively—higher than the previous month. Based on the index, architects in the southern half of the U.S. have been busier securing more work opportunities: the region received a score of 54.5, which is 3.2 points higher than the next saturated market out West. 

Of the four regional divisions (each calculated quarterly), the Northeast failed to grow from October to November, getting a total score of 47.5. It’s possible that the area saw a decrease due to lack of room or hesitation for new development, according to the AIA’s chief economist Kermit Baker.

“The uncertainty surrounding the overall health of the economy is leading developers to proceed with more caution on new projects,” he said in a press release. “We are at a point where there is a potential for an upside but also a potential for things to get worse.”

The index revealed that commercial and industrial projects are largely on the rise across the U.S: The sector scored an average of 52.9 while mixed practice work, multi-family residential, and institutional scored 52.2, 51.5, and 50.1 respectively.

The industry won’t know until mid-January how the overall 2019 index shaped up but based on the recent increase, it’s likely the national average will even out just below positive, given it spent the majority of the year flat from spring through summer.