Business conditions in the design industry rebounded in September following a dip into negative territory in August, according to the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) released by the AIA today. The September ABI score was 53.7, up significantly from a mark of 49.1 in August, yet down from July’s value of 54.7. The project inquiries index decreased slightly, dropping from 61.8 in August to 61.0 in September; Despite its second month of declining values, the index remains firmly planted in positive territory. The design contracts index, another nation-wide measurement, also dipped, falling from 55.3 in August to 53.2 in September. Scores above 50 indicate growth in billings, whereas those below 50 reflect a contraction.

“Aside from uneven demand for design services in the Northeast, all regions and project sectors are in good shape,” AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, said in a press release. “Areas of concern are shifting to supply issues for the industry, including volatility in building materials costs, a lack of a deep enough talent pool to keep up with demand, as well as a lack of contractors to execute design work.”

Below are the national, regional, and sector breakdowns for the September ABI report.

National Highlights

National Billings:
 With a value of 53.7, this index returned to positive territory in September, resulting in growth in six of the nine months this year.
Project Inquiries: This index indicated a marginal drop in demand from August (61.8) to September (61).
Design Contracts: The design contracts index was 53.2, down from a reading of 55.3 the previous month.

Regional Highlights

The region’s business conditions continue a streak of contracting monthly figures. The September value of 43.7 represents a steep fall from 47.1 in August.
Midwest: September’s score of 54.2 is below that of August (55.8), but it marks the sixth consecutive month above the 50-mark line.
South: The South, which has remained in positive territory for more than three years, received the highest regional score in today’s report. September’s value of 54.5 is only marginally below August’s score of 54.9.
West: In positive territory since March, the West's score slid slightly from 51.9 in August to 51.7 in September.

Sector Highlights

Multifamily Residential: 
The monthly figure for this sector hasn’t surpassed the 50-mark line since February. September’s mark of 49.5 is down from August’s value of 49.8.
Commercial/Industrial: In its fifth month of growth, the sector’s September score was 50.9, nearly a point below August’s mark of 51.8.
Institutional: The sector has remained in positive territory for more than a year and continued that trend in the September report with a value of 51.5, a decrease from 53 in August.
Mixed Practice: The mixed practice category saw the greatest demand for design services among the sectors in September, with an index score of 52.6, down from 53.9 in August.

Source: AIA Architecture Billings Index