Architecture Billings Drop in March

Demand for design services throughout the U.S. declined in March following two months of modest growth. The Architectural Billings Index (ABI) score for last month was 48.8, down from a mark of 50.7 in February. Any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings.

In conjunction with the most recent ABI, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has introduced an indicator that measures the volume of design contracts in architecture firms. This score offers a more precise way to estimate future levels of billing activity. The March reading was 48.2.

The new projects inquiry index offered a silver lining with a mark of 57.9, a jump from 56.8 over February.

"This protracted softening in demand for design services is a bit of a surprise given the overall strength of the market the last year and a half," AIA chief economist Kermit Baker said in a statement. "Hopefully, some of this can be attributed to severe weather conditions over this past winter. We will have a better sense if there is a reason for more serious concern over the next couple of months."

Regionally, the South and West reported the strongest scores at 52.8 and 50.7 respectively, followed by Northeast (46.8) and Midwest (46.6). The commercial/industrial sector came in at 49.6, with institutional at 49.0 and mixed practice at 47.6.