Bad news for firms hoping that spending on nonresidential projects would increase this year after a dismal 2020, as today the American Institute of Architects (AIA) released its economic forecast for the next year. The AIA is predicting another slide in construction and design demand through 2021, until counting on a recovery in 2022.
The AIA Consensus Construction Forecast Panel, seeing the continued downtrend of the last few Architecture Billings Index figures and the dip in the December 2020 jobs report, has predicted a 5.7 percent slide in total nonresidential construction for 2021 and a 3.1 percent increase in 2022. That figure is an average compiled from eight separate outlets, including Dodge Data & Analytics, IHS Economics, Moody’s, FMI, ConstructConnect, Associated Builders and Contractors, Wells Fargo, and Markstein Advisors.
Recognizing both the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic (likely to stretch further into 2021 despite the vaccine rollout) and ongoing recession on the leisure and hospitality industries, as well as office space demand, construction in those areas is projected to remain low. Hotel demand in particular, the panel expects, is looking at a 20.2 percent drop in demand—a pretty dire prediction.
As previously reiterated in AN’s ongoing ABI coverage (over and over again), institutional demand, typically a safe haven for architecture firms due to the long timetables and deep pockets of the client, is expected to drop 4.0 percent this year as governments and schools tighten their belts. Only the pace of healthcare and public safety projects are expected to increase, by a paltry 1.2 percent and 1.0 percent, respectively.
Still, the AIA writes, there is some cause to be hopeful. Another round of federal stimulus and Paycheck Protection Program loans is likely to cross President-elect Biden’s desk sometime in the near future, and a big-budget infrastructure spending bill is likely to have enough bipartisan support to pass.
Additionally, it’s hard to forecast the entire year with the pandemic still raging nearly unfettered, but nonresidential demand should pick up accordingly as vaccinations increase—but the demand for new office space (expected to slide 9.3 percent this year) could take a bit longer to recover.