Design Services Saw Increase in February but Economic Footings Are Rapidly Shifting

Demand for design services in February increased at a solid pace for the sixth month in a row, according to a report from the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

AIA’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI) score of 53.4 for February reflects an increase in design services provided by U.S. architecture firms (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). During February, both the new project inquiries and design contracts scores moderated slightly but remained in positive territory, posting scores of 56.5 and 52.0 respectively.

“Business conditions at architecture firms have been surprisingly positive so far this year. However, firms were just beginning to feel the impact of the dramatic slowdown caused by COVID-19 as this survey was being conducted in early March,” says AIA chief economist Kermit Baker. “The rapid pull-back in activity throughout the economy will obviously be felt in the design and construction sector, and architecture firms will be one of the first to see how these events play out.”

Key ABI highlights for February include:

Regional averages: South (58.0); Midwest (53.6); West (49.8); Northeast (49.4)

Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (53.5); institutional (52.8); mixed practice (52.7); commercial/industrial (52.4)

Project inquiries index: 56.5

Design contracts index: 52.0