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RAPID RISE: Architecture Billings Climbing Fast, AIA Reports

April 25, 2021
Best monthly numbers in over a year "a positive bellwether not only for the construction outlook, but also for the larger economy," says chief economist at American Institute of Architects.


WASHINGTON – April 21, 2021 – Strengthening to a score not seen since pre-Great Recession, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) logged its second positive mark since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a new report from The American Institute of Architects (AIA).

AIA’s ABI score for March rose to 55.6 compared to 53.3 in February (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). Scores for both new projects inquiries and new design contracts strengthened to 66.9 and 55.7 respectively.  March also marked the first time in three years all building sectors and regions posted positive scores.

“As business activity at architecture firms moves sharply toward recovery, it is very encouraging to simultaneously see such positive indicators of future project work increasing in the pipeline,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “The activity architecture firms are seeing is a positive bellwether not only for the construction outlook, but also for the larger economy.”

Key ABI highlights for March include:

  • Regional averages: Midwest (56.5); South (55.8); West (52.8); Northeast (50.8);
  • Sector index breakdown: commercial/industrial (57.0); mixed practice (54.9); institutional (54.4); multi-family residential (52.6);
  • Project inquiries index: 66.9;
  • Design contracts index: 55.7.

From the report: Billings were strongest at firms located in the Midwest and South, with those in the Midwest reporting particularly strong growth following a soft winter, partially due to harsh weather conditions. In addition, firms of all specializations reported billings growth this month, with the highest rate of growth reported by firms with commercial/industrial and institutional specializations, the two sectors hardest hit by the pandemic. Some firms are even reporting that their leisure and hospitality projects are starting to come back to life, as more people are vaccinated and start going out and traveling again.

The regional and sector categories are calculated as a three-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.

Visit AIA’s website for more ABI information.

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