After January's historic low score, the AIA's Architecture Billings Index (ABI) improved by two points in February to 35.3, up from the 33.3 mark in January, but still pointing to a general lack of demand for design services. The new project inquiry score was 49.5, up from 43.5 in January.
"Despite a higher score than last month, we are likely to see light demand for new construction projects through much of the year," said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. "There is hope that the ($787 billion) stimulus bill will result in more project activity, but that is also dependent on banks easing lending standards in the months ahead. Still, the improvement in the inquiries index does provide hope that some stalled projects will resurface in the near future."
As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine- to 12-month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. Any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings.
Regionally, the ABI breaks down as follows: West (36.4, down from 38.3 in January), South (35.5, up from 34.4 in January), Midwest (35.0, up from 34.6 in January), Northeast (32.3, up from 29.8 in January). The sector index breakdown is as follows: mixed practice (40.1, up from 39.6 in January), institutional (36.8, down from 37.1 in January), multi-family residential (33.3, up from 29.5 in January), commercial/industrial (32.0, down from 33.8 in January).