Demand for design services appears healthy as a result of continued strength in the multi-family residential market and the emerging growth for institutional projects, as reflected in the latest Architecture Billings Index (ABI).

As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to 12 month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the October ABI score was 53.7, down from a mark of 55.2 in September. The score reflects an increase in design activity, as any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings. The new projects inquiry index was 62.7, following a mark of 64.8 the previous month.

The AIA has added a new indicator measuring the trends in new design contracts at architecture firms that can provide a strong signal of the direction of future architecture billings. The score for design contracts in October was 56.4.

“Though it has been slow in emerging, we’re finally seeing some momentum develop in design activity for nonprofits and municipal governments, and as such we’re seeing a new round of activity in the institutional sector,” says AIA chief economist Kermit Baker. “It will be interesting to see if and how the results of the mid-term Congressional and gubernatorial elections impact this developing momentum.”

Regional averages were as follows: South (58.4), West (56.1), Midwest (54.4), Northeast (47.0); and the breakdown in sector index was: mixed practice (56.9), multi-family residential (54.7), institutional (54.4), commercial / industrial (52.3).