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Architecture Billings Index Points to Major Downturn in Commercial Construction

April 22, 2020
Largest monthly decline in billings a direct result of pandemic response.

WASHINGTON, DC — Reflecting the deteriorating conditions in the overall economy, demand for design services from architecture firms recorded a record fall, according to a new report today from The American Institute of Architects (AIA).AIA’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI) score of 33.3 for March reflects a decrease in design services provided by U.S. architecture firms (any score below 50 indicates a decrease in billings). During March, both the new project inquiries and design contracts scores dropped dramatically, posting scores of 23.8 and 27.1 respectively.  “Though most architecture firms have made quick transitions to remote operations, the complete shutdown of business activity is severely impacting architects,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “The dramatic pullback in new and ongoing design projects reflects just how quickly and fundamentally business conditions have changed across the country and around the world in the last month as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”Key ABI figures for March include:

  • Regional averages: West (45.3); South (44.2); Midwest (44.2); Northeast (38.4)
  • Sector index breakdown: institutional (46.9); multi-family residential (43.3); commercial/industrial (41.9); mixed practice (40.6)
  • Project inquiries index: 23.8
  • Design contracts index: 27.1

The regional and sector categories are calculated as a three-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.

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