Following another historic low score in January, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) was up two points in February, but still pointing to a general lack of demand for design services.

As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate 9- to 12-month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the February ABI rating was 35.3, up from the 33.3 mark in January (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry score was 49.5.

“Despite a higher score than last month, we are likely to see light demand for new construction projects through much of the year,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “There is hope that the stimulus bill will result in more project activity, but that is also dependent on banks easing lending standards in the months ahead. Still, the improvement in the inquiries index does provide hope that some stalled projects will resurface in the near future.”

Key February ABI highlights:

Regional averages: West (36.4), South (35.5), Midwest (35.0), Northeast (32.3)
Sector index breakdown: mixed practice (40.1), institutional (36.8), multi-family residential (33.3), commercial / industrial (32.0)
Project inquiries index: 49.5