Demand for the services of architects rose modestly for the fifth straight month in March, prompted by a growing number of commercial real estate development projects on the drafting table for future construction, according to the Architecture Billings Index (ABI).
Architect invoices are a leading indicator of future construction activity, reflecting future spending on hard construction nine to 12 months in the future, according to the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The March ABI score was 50.4, following a mark of 51 in February, translating into slightly increased demand for the services of architects. Any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings.
The new projects inquiry index was 56.6 in March, down from 63.4 the previous month.
"We are starting to hear more about improving conditions in the marketplace, with a greater sense of optimism that there will be greater demand for design services," said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker. "But that is not across the board and there are still a number of architecture firms struggling so progress is likely to be measured in inches rather than miles for the next few months."
Among U.S. regions, the Midwest led with 54.1, followed by the Northeast, 53.9; and South, 50.1. The West experienced a decline in architect billings, with an index of 46.6.
Among the property sectors, commercial/industrial led at 56; followed by multifamily residential, 51.9; institutional, 47.7; and mixed practice, 47.2. The regional and sector indices are calculated as a three-month moving average, while the index and inquiries are based on the AIA's monthly numbers.