The Architectural Billings Index (ABI) finished the first quarter of the year on a positive note, according to the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

March’s ABI score was 54.3, up from a score of 50.7 in the previous month. This reflects a sizable increase in design services, as any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings. The new projects inquiry index was 59.8, down from a reading of 61.5 the previous month, while the new design contracts index dipped from 54.7 to 52.3.

The ABI reflects the approximate nine- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending.

“The first quarter started out on uneasy footing, but fortunately ended on an upswing entering the traditionally busy spring season,” says AIA chief economist Dr. Kermit Baker. “All sectors showed growth except for the commercial/industrial market, which, for the first time in over a year displayed a decrease in design services.”

Regional averages for the March ABI were: Midwest (54.6), South (52.6), Northeast (52.4) and West (50.2). The index by sector broke down as follows: multifamily residential (54.6), mixed practice (53.7), institutional (52.9) and commercial/industrial (49.8).