Demand for design services increased in 10 of 12 months in 2014, according to American Institute of Architects (AIA) and its Architectural Billings Index (ABI), which “points to a healthy outlook for the nonresidential construction industry,” according to a release.

The ABI reflects the approximate nine-to-12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending, and AIA reported the December ABI score was 52.2, up from a mark of 50.9 in November.

According to AIA, the score reflects an increase in design activity (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 58.2, following a mark of 58.8 the previous month. Design contracts posted a score of 49.9, after a 54.9 mark in November.

“Business conditions continue to be the strongest at architecture firms in the South and the Western regions,” says AIA chief economist Kermit Baker. “Particularly encouraging is the continued solid upturn in design activity at institutional firms, since public sector facilities were the last nonresidential building project type to recover from the downturn.”
The South had the highest regional average at 56.8, with the Northeast the lowest at 45.5. Sector-wise, multifamily residential saw the highest mark at 55.7.