Architecture Billings Index Points to Major Downturn in Commercial Construction

Falls to lowest level since 2001 with nearly 9-point drop off

WASHINGTON, March 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Reflecting the

deteriorating conditions in the housing market and overall economy, the
Architecture Billings Index (ABI) tumbled almost nine points in February.
As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI shows an
approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and
construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported
the February ABI rating fell to 41.8, its lowest level since October 2001,
and down dramatically from the 50.7 mark in January (any score above 50
indicates an increase in billings). The inquiries for new projects score
was 54.3.

"This is a clear indication that there could be tougher times ahead for

design firms and a noticeable slowdown in commercial construction projects
coming online in the foreseeable future," said AIA Chief Economist Kermit
Baker, Ph.D., Hon. AIA. “Interestingly enough, we have also had some survey
members reporting that their business is in great shape from a billings and
demand standpoint. The one bright spot continues to be the institutional
sector with continued positive conditions for construction projects such as
schools, hospitals and government buildings.”

Key February ABI highlights:

-- Regional averages: Northeast (51.5), South (48.3), West (46.3),

Midwest (42.6)

-- Sector index breakdown: institutional (54.9), multi-family

residential (46.6), mixed practice (43.9), commercial / industrial (40.6)

-- Billings inquiries index: 54.3

About the AIA Architecture Billings Index

The Architecture Billings Index is derived from a monthly "Work-on-the-

Boards" survey and produced by the AIA Economics & Market Research Group.
Based on a comparison of data compiled since the survey’s inception in 1995
with figures from the Department of Commerce on Construction Put in Place,
the findings amount to a leading economic indicator that provides an
approximately nine to twelve month glimpse into the future of
nonresidential construction activity. The diffusion indexes contained in
the full report are derived from a monthly survey sent to a panel of AIA
member-owned firms. Participants are asked whether their billings
increased, decreased, or stayed the same in the month that just ended.
According to the proportion of respondents choosing each option, a score is
generated, which represents an index value for each month.

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