Graphs courtesy AIA

The Architectural Billings Index (ABI) rose slightly in February, to 35.3, after dipping to all-time low score of 33.3 in January. A score above 50 indicates an increase in billings, and below 50, a decrease.

The index, one of the profession’s leading economic indicators, reflects a nine- to 12-month lag time between architectural billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects produces the index based on surveys sent to architecture firms.

Kermit Baker, the AIA’s chief economist, says that despite the small uptick in February, architects are likely to see a “light demand for new construction projects” through 2009.

Credit availability remains a key problem for the construction industry. “There is hope that the stimulus bill will result in more project activity,” Baker adds, “but that is also dependent on banks easing lending standards in the months ahead.”

Kermit points out that the February inquiries score—which jumped to 49.5, up from 43.5 in January—does “provide hope that some stalled projects will resurface in the near future.”

In terms of sectors, commercial/industrial had the lowest score in February—32.0—down from 33.8 in January. The institutional score slipped to 36.8, from 37.1 in January, while multi-family residential increased to 33.3 (from 29.5).

The index also breaks down activity by region. The Northeast had the lowest score (32.3) while the West had the highest (36.4). The score for the South was 35.5, and for the Midwest, 35.0. 

Read more economic news in our Recession and Recovery special section, including “How Bad Is It” and “The Silver Lining Is: We’ve Been Here Before.”