Billing up slightly at architecture firms—for the first time in 6 months

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We last checked in with architecture professionals six months ago in October – when their six-month slide in billings began.

As leading indicators of construction activity, designers in architecture and engineering aren’t reporting much good news. The American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) nationwide figures for February and March show slowed decline, at least. And there’s one slight positive indicator.

Contracts and inquiries are down, again, from the previous month.

In addition, residential designers are experiencing a slowdown not felt since the first phase of the pandemic. It’s the quietest of all sectors.

Yet a slight uptick in billing – led by firms with a diverse portfolio of projects across sectors—offers some hope. Residential is down, but other sectors are may be on the way up—or at least stabilizing.

Here’s the latest from AIA’s Architecture Billings Index.

Billings, contracts, inquiries

Sectors

Regions

In February, only the West region reported more activity that the previous month. In March, it was only the Midwest. In both both months, three declined as one upticked.

February

March

Client preferences

The extent to which AIA’s values, called its “Framework for Design Excellence,” were being prioritized by clients was also measured in March.

AIA current Design Excellence categories, not in a ranked order:

•Health of people in and around a building

•Resilience of a system after a “hazardous event”

•Zero Carbon – reducing embodied and operational carbon of buildings

•Equity –  “the state in which everyone is treated fairly and involved in making decisions regarding the potentially harmful consequences of industrial and governmental operations and policies.”

Of course, developers have other priorities. Somewhat notably, they ranked all of the association’s values at least of moderate importance, according to responding firms.

Health—which sounds like active lifestyle amenities to a building programmer—not surprisingly ranked high among clients. AIA reports “63% of firms indicating that their clients placed a high priority on issues related to health for projects over the last year.”

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Posted by Luke Garrott

Luke Garrott, PhD, has published in The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News, and written features for the Salt Lake City Weekly City Guide and The West View. A former two-term councilman in Salt Lake City's District 4, he lives in Downtown Salt Lake City and grew up in the Chicago area.