The most important building index you never heard of finally has some good news to share. After reaching record lows during the recession, the American Institute of Architect’s Architecture Billings Index has finally crossed over into positive territory, suggesting architects are finally getting back to work. Since the profession tends to lead construction by nine to 12 months, this points to a turnaround for both industries by next year.
Granted, the index has been bobbing around for more than a year now, meaning the recovery remains tenuous. The index topped 50 for the first time since February 2008–a sign of the coming collapse even before Lehman blew up–reaching 50.4 in September, up from 48.2 in August. (A reading above 50 means billings are rising; below 50 they are falling.) The index has also grown for the past five months, inching toward positive territory and signaling a deceleration of the architecture industry’s three-year fall.
But can the recovery hold?
“While there has been increasing demand for design services, it is happening at a slow rate and there continue to be other obstacles that are preventing a more accelerated recovery,” AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker said in a release. “Still, the strong upturn in design activity in the commercial and industrial sector certainly suggests that this upturn can possibly be sustained.”
In encouraging news for New York builders, billings in the Northeastern region have been soaring for the past few months, hitting 50.3 in June, 50.9 in July, and 56.7 in August. Perhaps finally the end is in sight.