January’s AIA Architecture Billings Index remains low, marking “the lengthiest period of declining billings since 2010”

In its latest report the AIA’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI) score has increased ever so slightly to 46.2 from December’s low 45.4. Any score below 50 indicates a decline in billings from the previous month. While the numbers appear to be straddling in the report, AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker remained positive about the situation, noting that “the broader economy showed improvement in January,” and that the index for new project inquiries, reported by surveyed architects, came in at 53.8.

“This now marks the lengthiest period of declining billings since 2010, although it is reassuring that the pace of this decline is less rapid and the broader economy showed improvement in January,” Baker said. “Firms are seeing growth with inquiries into new projects and value of newly signed design contracts is holding steady, showing potential signs of interest from clients in new projects.”

Each month, in addition to the national score, the AIA reports the billings index of the four regions across the United States. This month, again, the Midwest reported the highest score, 50.9; this is a slight improvement to December’s 50.3. All other regions remained under 50, with the lowest score reported in the Northeast.

In addition to the region scores, the AIA also looks at the indexes for building sectors. As has been the case the last few months, the project sector reporting the highest index is institutional, at 48.5. Firms with an institutional focus had been reporting steady and strong billings for much of 2023, before they started dipping during the final quarter of the year. Firms with a focus on mixed practice, not one building sector in particular, reported the lowest index at 42.9.

In its January report the AIA also surveyed architects on their marketing and business development spending over the last year. The survey results yielded that firms have increased spending in these areas over the past year “as they have become more challenging.” According to the report, 34 percent of respondent firms found the current business development landscape of late to be “somewhat more challenging.”

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