The Architecture Billing Index (ABI) eased back in January, showing no increase in design activity after a nine-month stretch of positive billings.

An 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 January ABI score was 49.9, down from a mark of 52.7 in December. The new projects inquiry index was 58.7, down from a reading of 59.1 the previous month.

“This easing in demand for design services is a bit of a surprise given the overall strength of the market over the past nine months,” says Dr. Kermit Baker, AIA chief economist. “Likely some of this can be attributed to severe weather conditions in January. We will have a better sense if there is a reason for more serious concern over the next couple of months.”

Regional averages for the ABI were 54.8 in the South, 49.3 in the West, 50.8 in the Midwest and 46.0 in the Northeast. In terms of sector breakdown, multi-family residential was at 51.4, institutional 53.0, commercial/industrial 50.9 and mixed practice 46.9.