Architecture Billings Index: Mostly Stable Conditions in Nonresidential Design and Construction Markets

Following a generally positive performance in 2015, the Architecture Billings Index has begun this year modestly dipping back into negative terrain. As an economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the January ABI score was 49.6, down slightly from the mark of 51.3 in the previous month. This score reflects a minor decrease in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 55.3, down from a reading of 60.5 the previous month.

Every January the AIA research department updates the seasonal factors used to calculate the ABI, resulting in a revision of recent ABI values.

“The fundamentals are mostly sound in the nonresidential design and construction market,” says AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “January was a rocky month throughout the economy, with falling oil prices, international economic concerns, and with steep declines in stock market valuations in the U.S. and elsewhere. Some of the fallout of this uncertainty may have affected progress on design projects.”

Key January ABI highlights:

  • Regional averages: West (50.8), Northeast (50.4), South (50.3), Midwest (48.9)
  • Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (51.9), commercial/industrial (50.5), institutional (49.9), mixed practice (49.0)
  • Project inquiries index: 55.3
  • Design contracts index: 50.9

The regional and sector categories are calculated as a three-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.

Architecture Billings Index: Positive Outlook for Construction Industry

There were a few occasions where demand for design services decreased from a month-to-month basis in 2015, but the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) concluded the year in positive terrain and was so in eight of the 12 months of the year. As an economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the December ABI score was 50.9, up from the mark of 49.3 in the previous month. This score reflects a slight increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 60.2, up from a reading of 58.6 the previous month.

“As has been the case for the past several years, there continues to be a mix of business conditions that architecture firms are experiencing,” says AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “Overall, however, ABI scores for 2015 averaged just below the strong showing in 2014, which points to another healthy year for construction this year.”

Key December ABI highlights:

  • Regional averages: West (53.7), South (53.3), Northeast (46.7), Midwest (46.1),
  • Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (52.9), institutional (52.2), commercial/industrial (47.3), mixed practice (46.5)
  • Project inquiries index: 60.2
  • Design contracts index: 51.0

The regional and sector categories are calculated as a three-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.

Business Conditions Show Decrease in Architecture Billings and Construction Spending

As has been the case a few times already this year, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) dipped in November. As an economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate 9- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the November ABI score was 49.3, down from the mark of 53.1 in the previous month. This score reflects a decrease in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 58.6, up just a nudge from a reading of 58.5 the previous month.

“Since architecture firms continue to report that they are bringing in new projects, this volatility in billings doesn’t seem to reflect any underlying weakness in the construction sector,” says AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “Rather, it could reflect the uncertainty of moving ahead with projects given the continued tightness in construction financing and the growing labor shortage problem gripping the entire design and construction industries.”

Key November ABI highlights:

  • Regional averages: South (55.4), West (54.5), Midwest (47.8), Northeast (46.2)
  • Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (53.8), institutional (52.0), commercial / industrial (51.0), mixed practice (47.6)
  • Project inquiries index: 58.6
  • Design contracts index: 53.5

The regional and sector categories are calculated as a 3-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.

Owens Corning Releases Ninth Annual Sustainability Report

Owens Corning announced strong progress in reducing its environmental footprint and improving the environmental impact and transparency of its products. The company released these results in its ninth annual sustainability report.

“We are proud of what we accomplished this past year, further reducing our environmental footprint and expanding our positive handprint by introducing new solutions to the challenges of climate change, energy consumption and infrastructure development,” says vice president and chief sustainability officer, Frank O’Brien-Bernini. “Today, our global enterprise operates with 46 percent less absolute greenhouse gas emissions than our peak in 2007, and we are developing ways to make additional reductions. We are committed to expanding our impact through sustainability and collaborating with others to further our progress.”

The report also highlights the company’s global philanthropic work, joint efforts with customers and suppliers to improve sustainability, and analytics on its handprint. All of these support the goal of becoming a net-positive growth company. All of these support the goal of becoming a net-positive growth company.

“We’ve begun to explore handprint opportunities along the social dimensions of human health and employee well-being,” O’Brien-Bernini says. “Continued safety progress and advances in health and wellness help our employees and their families live to the fullest each day.”

Building on the successes of its first 10-year sustainability goals, this is the fourth year Owens Corning has reported against its 2020 goals.

Other highlights of 2014 progress include:

  • Industry-leading track record of safety performance, which earned Owens Corning the 2014 Green Cross for Safety medal from the National Safety Council.
  • Sustained environmental footprint progress, including intensity reductions of 34 percent in greenhouse gas and 65 percent in toxic air emissions from its 2010 baseline.
  • Facilitated 2.4 billion pounds of end-of-life recycled shingles and consumed 1.3 billion pounds of recycled glass, year-over-year increases of 33 percent and 15 percent respectively.
  • Launch of the WindStrand high-performance glass fiber roving and Ultrablade fiberglass reinforcement fabric products, which enable longer and lighter wind blades. This advancement supports the continued growth of economical wind energy for low-wind sites.
  • Participation in community programs at more than half of our worldwide facilities. This included increasing access to basic health and educational needs for more than 19,000 children in India, China and Mexico.
  • Collaboration with the Harvard School of Public Health to strengthen its wellness programs.
  • Placement in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index for the fifth consecutive year and named Industry Leader in Sustainability for the second consecutive year.
  • Perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index for the 11th consecutive year.

Owens Corning’s 2014 Sustainability Report is consistent with Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines known as GRI-G3.1. GRI’s Sustainability Reporting Guidelines set a globally applicable framework for reporting the economic, environmental and social dimensions of an organization’s activities, products and services.