WASHINGTON — The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) is trending up, showing its strongest growth since November 2007.

The ABI reflects the approximate nine- to 12-month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the January ABI score was 54.2, up from a December mark of 51.2. Any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings.

The score reflects a strong increase in demand for design service. The new projects inquiry index was 62.3, up from 57.9 in December.

“We have been pointing in this direction for the last several months, but this is the strongest indication that there will be an upturn in construction activity in the coming months,” said Kermit Baker, Ph.D., AIA chief economist. ”But, as we continue to hear about overall improving economic conditions and that there are more inquiries for new design projects in the marketplace, a continued reservation by lending institutions to supply financing for construction projects is preventing a more widespread recovery in the industry.”

By region, the Midwest ranked the highest at 54.4; followed by the West, 53.4; South, 51.7; and Northeast, 50.3.

Among sectors, mixed practice registered at 54.9, just ahead of multifamily residential, 54.5; commercial/industrial, 52.0; and institutional, 50.2.

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

Publication date: 3/11/2013