The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) got back on track in February, showing a nominal increase in design activity at 50.4. The month before, the ABI saw its first negative score in 10 months at 49.9, though the index has now been positive 10 of the past 12 months.

An economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. February’s score, according to the American Institute of Architects (AIA), reflects a minor increase in design services, as any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings. Meanwhile, the new projects inquiry index was 56.6, down from a reading of 58.7 the previous month.

“The health of the institutional market has been the key factor for positive business conditions for the design and construction industry in recent months, and it is encouraging to see that sector remain on solid footing,” says AIA chief economist Dr. Kermit Baker. “However, we’re seeing some slowing in the other major construction sectors. Design billings for residential projects had its first negative month in over three years, and commercial design billings have seen only modest growth in recent years.”

As for regional averages, the South led the way at 52.5, while the Midwest recorded an ABI of 50.2, the Northeast 48.0 and the West 46.7. Sector-wise, institutional recorded a 52.2, commercial/industrial a 51.4, multifamily residential 48.9 and mixed practice 45.3.