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AIA Report: Billings and Optimism are up, but so is Uncertainty
Posted by Tasha Weiss on July 2, 2013 at 12:18 PM.

Following the first reversal into negative territory in 10 months in April, the Architecture Billings Index bounced back in May, as reported by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) during its National Convention and Design Exposition last month in Denver. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to 12 month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending.


AIA reported the May ABI score was 52.9, up dramatically from a mark of 48.6 in April. This score reflects an increase in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 59.1, up slightly from the reading of 58.5 the previous month.


“This rebound is a good sign for the design and construction industry and hopefully means that April’s negative dip was a blip rather than a sign of challenging times to come,” said AIA chief economist, Kermit Baker, Ph.D., Hon. AIA.  “But there is a resounding sense of uncertainty in the marketplace – from clients to investors and an overall lack of confidence in the general economy – that is continuing to act as a governor on the business development engine for architecture firms.”


AISC exhibited at the AIA National Convention and Design Exposition last month, which attracted a lively turnout of approximately 16,000 attendees, according to show organizers.


“Optimism from attendees about the economy and the market seemed pretty high to me in conversations had at our booth and elsewhere,” said Larry Flynn, AISC industry marketing manager. “Housing - both MSR and single-family were often identified as the hottest markets, as well as healthcare, and higher education was said to be making a strong comeback from architects I visited with.”


aia-2013_booth.jpgTraffic was brisk at the AISC booth this year, where curved steel was the main focus (shown left). A wide-flange curved steel sculpture provided by Chicago Metal Rolled Products was a big draw; spurring a lot of questions from architects, whose eyes would light up when they saw the sculpture. Questions usually began with: “Can you really bend steel like that?!” Architecturally Exposed Structural Steel (AESS) was another key area of interest. Both had architects commenting about liking the modern aesthetic that steel can bring to design, said Flynn.


During the show, AIA also issued a new report on Key Trends in Architecture Marketplace, which highlights key trends in the architecture marketplace and their impact on business and growth. Key findings include: stiffer competition in the design services marketplace is here to stay due to recession pressure; new markets and a growing base of talent for the A/E/C industry is due to the rise of emerging economies, including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa; greater collaboration among design, engineering and construction disciplines; increasing push for measuring the effect and benefit of design strategies and providing building performance data; rise in alternative and complementary services being offered by architecture firms; and a strong market for green products and design.


Next year’s AIA show will take place June 26-28 in Chicago. For more information, visit

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