Industry Outlook

ABI Continues to Hold Positive

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is reporting an increase in architecture firm billings for February from its Architecture Billings Index (ABI), with several key segments showing an encouraging outlook for 2018.

While the pace of growth in design activity slowed a bit in February for an ABI score of 52.0 (any score over 50 indicates billings growth), it still reflects a healthy business environment. In particular, firms with a multifamily residential or an institutional specialization continued to report extremely strong billings.

The Dodge Momentum Index moved 6.1 percent higher in March, rising to 155.0 (the year 2000=100) from the revised February reading of 146.0. The momentum index is a monthly measure of the first (or initial) report for nonresidential building projects in planning, which have been shown to lead construction spending for nonresidential buildings by a full year.

March’s gain was the result of a 9.6-percent increase in the commercial component—more than erasing the 5.1-percent decline it had seen the previous month.

At a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of $708.1 billion, new construction starts in February slipped 3 percent from the previous month, according to Dodge Data & Analytics. The reduced activity in February followed a 2-percent decline in January, as the early months of 2018 are showing some loss of momentum after the 12-percent increase reported back in December.

Total construction starts for the 12 months ending February 2018 were up 2 percent from February 2017.

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