Note: This index is a leading indicator primarily for new Commercial Real Estate (CRE) investment.
Architecture firms experienced a rebound in billings in May after a downturn in April, according to the latest Architecture Billings Index (ABI) from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Deltek. The index score for May was the highest it has been since September 2022. Inquiries into new projects and design contracts also increased this month, reaching their highest levels since February.
The billings score for April increased from 48.5 in April to 51.0 in May (any score above 50 indicates an increase in firm billings). Firms also reported that inquiries into new projects accelerated to 57.2 from 53.9 the previous month. Further, the value of new design contracts also moved up to 52.3 in May from 49.8 in April.
“The modest improvement in overall demand for architectural services that we saw last month is encouraging news”, said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker Hon. AIA, Ph.D., “However, there continues to be variation in the performance of firms by regional location and building specialization. This suggests that overall business conditions for the profession likely will continue to be variable.”
Despite growth in the overall ABI this month, business conditions remain variable in different regions of the country. Billings improved at firms located in the South for the second consecutive month in May, while they were essentially flat at firms located in the Midwest, following six months of growth. However, billings continued to decline at firms located in both the West and Northeast, where scores have been below 50 since last fall.
By firm specialization, business conditions softened further at firms with a multifamily residential specialization in May, falling to the lowest level in two years. Billings also declined for the ninth consecutive month at firms with a commercial/industrial specialization. On the other hand, business conditions improved for the second month in a row at firms with an institutional specialization, as they reported their strongest growth since last year.
• Regional averages: South (52.3); Midwest (49.6); Northeast (48.7); West (47.7)
• Sector index breakdown: institutional (53.4); mixed practice (firms that do not have at least half of their billings in any one other category) (52.7); commercial/industrial (47.5); multi-family residential (43.0)
Click on graph for larger image.
This graph shows the Architecture Billings Index since 1996. The index was at 51.0 in May, up from 48.5 in April. Anything above 50 indicates an increase in demand for architects’ services.
Note: This includes commercial and industrial facilities like hotels and office buildings, multi-family residential, as well as schools, hospitals and other institutions.
This index has declined in 6 of the last 8 months. This index usually leads CRE investment by 9 to 12 months, so this index suggests a slowdown in CRE investment later in 2023 and into 2024.