Demand for design services from U.S. architecture firms took a pointed dip last month, according to the December ABI report from the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
The pace of decline during December accelerated from November, posting an Architecture Billings Index (ABI) score of 42.6 from 46.3 (any score below 50 indicates a decline in firm billings). Meanwhile, the pace of growth of inquiries into new projects remained flat from November to December with a score of 52.4, though the value of new design contracts stayed in negative territory with a score of 48.5.
“Since the national economic recovery appears to have stalled, architecture firms are entering 2021 facing a continued sluggish design market,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “However, the recently passed federal stimulus funding should help shore up the economy in the short-term, and hopefully by later this year there should be relief as COVID vaccinations become more widespread. Recent project inquiries from prospective and former clients have been positive, suggesting that new work may begin picking up as we move into the spring and summer months.”
Key ABI highlights for December include:
- Regional averages: South (46.8); Midwest (43.6); West (43.4); Northeast (38.8)
- Sector index breakdown: mixed practice (48.0); commercial/industrial (47.2); multi-family residential (46.1); institutional (38.5)
- Project inquiries index: 52.4
- Design contracts index: 48.5
The regional and sector categories are calculated as a three-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.
About the ABI
The Architecture Billings Index is an economic indicator for nonresidential construction activity, with a lead time of approximately 9–12 months. Investment groups like Wells Fargo, media outlets, firms of all sizes, and business leaders rely on this leading monthly economic indicator to assess business conditions and predict and track the market.
The index is derived from AIA’s Work-on-the-Boards survey, which has gathered data on shifts in billings from architectural firm leaders for over 20 years. This data is a trusted tool used by the design and construction industry and other firms to predict and track movements in the market
Learn more about the ABI.