April US architectural billings slip by 2.1%

20 May 2009 22:38  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--An index that reflects future US building activity fell 2.1% in April from March, signalling relative stability but a lukewarm outlook for the national economy, an economist with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) said on Wednesday.

The AIA's monthly architectural billings index (ABI) fell to 42.8 in April from 43.7 in March, less than a full point. The slight decrease contrasts sharply with the index's 24% increase in March from February.

"The most encouraging part of this news is that this is the second month with very strong inquiries for new projects," said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker. The new-projects category rose to 56.8 for April from 56.6 in March, he said, but the March number increased by 14.3% over February.

"A growing number of architecture firms report potential projects arising from federal stimulus funds," he said. "Still, too many architects are continuing to report difficult conditions to feel confident that the economic landscape for the construction industry will improve very quickly."

Regionally, the index dropped most significantly in the northeast, by nearly 13%, but slid least in the south, with a decline of 3.6%.

Also, demand from all of the construction sectors was down, with architectural services to the commercial/industrial sector decreasing by 19%.

Interest from the mixed-practice sector was down slightly to 44.0 in April from 44.2 in March. The category refers to firms that may undertake institutional, residential or commercial-industrial architectural projects.

Non-residential construction, which includes shopping centres, offices and other projects covered by the ABI, generates $160-230 (€117-168) worth of consumption of chemicals and derivatives for every $1,000 spent on the project, according to the American Chemistry Council (ACC).

The ABI, which is derived from a monthly survey of AIA-member firms, reflects a lag of 9-12 months between architecture billings and construction spending, according to the AIA.

($1 = €0.73)

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By: Larry Terry
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