Architecture Billings Index Moves Into Negative Territory

The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) dipped slightly into negative territory in January, after a strong showing in December. As an economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the January ABI score was 49.5, down from a score of 55.6 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 60, up from a reading of 57.6 the previous month.

“This decrease in activity, taking into consideration strong readings in project inquiries and new design contracts, isn’t exactly a cause for concern,” says AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “The fundamentals of a sound nonresidential design and construction market persist.”

Key January ABI highlights:

  • Regional averages: South (54.2), Northeast (53), Midwest (52.4), West (48.8)
  • Sector index breakdown: institutional (54.6), commercial / industrial (53.4), mixed practice (48.1), multi-family residential (48.1)
  • Project inquiries index: 60
  • Design contracts index: 52.1

Soprema Scholarship Is Available for 2018 School Year

In an effort to continue its commitment to the success and growth of the industry, SOPREMA is proud to offer the SOPREMA scholarship to architecture, engineering, building construction management and building science students for its second year.

In its first year, the SOPREMA scholarship was awarded to seven students who each received $5,000 to go towards their graduate or undergraduate studies. SOPREMA is currently accepting applications for the 2018 scholarship year. The deadline for submissions is March 31, 2017.

“We’re proud to be offering this scholarship to students,” says Sara Jonas, marketing manager, SOPREMA. “By investing in the next generation, we are pledging our commitment to continuing the advancement of the industry.”

The SOPREMA Scholarship was founded to assist students pursuing a degree in architecture, engineering, construction management or a similar field at an accredited four-year college or university. The program is administered by Scholarship America, a designer and manager of scholarship and tuition reimbursement programs for corporations, foundations, associations and individuals.

Photogrammetry Software Is Suited for Use With Drones

Eos Systems Inc. introduces photogrammetry software optimized for photographs taken with drones.

Eos Systems Inc. introduces photogrammetry software optimized for photographs taken with drones.

Eos Systems Inc. has introduced photogrammetry software optimized specifically for photographs taken with drones or unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

The PhotoModeler UAS 2016 software creates 3D models, measurements, and maps from photographs taken with ordinary cameras built-in or mounted on drones. It includes features for optimized operation with drone photos including post processing kinematics (PPK), volume objects, geographic coordinate systems support, multispectral image support and control point assist. Eos Systems is offering the new software at $2275, 35 percent off the normal price, from Nov. 1 to Nov. 30, 2016.

The new version of PhotoModeler is suited for drone photogrammetry applications including surveying, ground contouring, surface model creation, stock pile volume measurement, mining and mine reclamation, environmental analysis, slope analysis, forensic analysis, construction, and agricultural crop analysis. New applications for drone photogrammetry are developed monthly.  Eos PhotoModeler was introduced 23 years ago and is a photogrammetric software platform with a range of users in fields such as architecture, engineering, surveying, research, manufacturing and forensics.
 
PhotoModeler UAS 2016 software includes features that provide performance in drone photogrammetry.  Camera calibration is optimized for accuracy with UASs and the global positioning system (GPS). Post processed kinematics (PPK) makes it possible to correct a survey with GPS data after the fact for survey grade accuracy. Volume objects provide easy and accurate volume data for stock piles and mining operations. Full geographic coordinate system support enables users to work in their local geographic coordinate system for better compatibility. Support is provided for multispectral images including Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) surface models and ortho-mosaics for agriculture. An interface is provided for marking ground control points.

Firm Leaders Reinvest and Expand Businesses as Profitability Increases

U.S. architecture firms have experienced a near complete recovery from the Great Recession, which has allowed firm leaders to reinvest profits back into their businesses. These findings, along with an in depth look at topics such as firm billings, staffing, and international work, are covered in the “The Business of Architecture: 2016 Firm Survey Report”.  The report offers metrics that provide insights into how architecture firms are operating and is available for purchase here.

“More than at any point in recent memory, there has been rise in the amount of renovation projects that architects have led compared to new construction activity over the past decade plus,” said AIA chief economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD.  “A lot this has to do with green building incentives towards renovations, improved construction methods and products that increase the longevity of buildings, and a slower growing population that reduces the need for new construction.”

Key highlights:

  • Net billings at architecture firms were $28.5 billion at the peak of the market in 2008 and had nearly recovered to $28.4 billion by 2015.
  • Percentage of firms reporting a financial loss declined sharply in recent years from more than 20 percent in 2011 to fewer than 10 percent by 2015.
  • Growing profitability has allowed firms to increase their marketing activities and expand into new geographical areas and building types to diversify their design portfolios.
  • Renovations made up a large portion of design work with 45 percent of building design billings coming from work on existing facilities, including 30 percent from additions to buildings, and the remaining from historic preservation projects.
  • Billings in the residential sector topped $7 billion, more than 30 percent over 2013 levels.
  • Modest gains in diversity of profession with women now comprising 31 percent of architecture staff (up from 28 percent in 2013) and minorities making up 21 percent of staff (up from 20 percent in 2013).
  • Use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) software has become standard at larger firms with 96 percent of firms with 50 or more employees report using it for billable work (compared to 72 percent of mid-sized firms and 28 percent of small firms).
  • Newer technologies including 3D printing and 4D/5D modeling are reported being used at only 11 percent and 8 percent of firms respectively.
  • Energy modeling currently has a low adoption rate with 13 percent of firms using it for billable work, although this share jumps to 59 percent for large firms.

“From a practice standpoint, digital modeling is firmly entrenched in the early phase of design work and expanding into subsequent phases, with the potential for more involvement for architects through the construction and facility management processes,” said AIA senior director of research, Michele Russo. “In the coming years we expect firms will be adding technological dimensions to their design work through more utilization of cloud computing, 3D printing and the use of virtual reality software. This should help further efficiencies, minimize waste and project delivery delays, and lead to increased bottom line outcomes for their clients.”

ABI Posts Decline in Demand for Design Services

The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) posted consecutive months of a decline in demand for design services.  As an economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the September ABI score was 48.4, down from the mark of 49.7 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 59.4, down from a reading of 61.8 the previous month.

“This recent backslide should act as a warning signal,” states AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD.  “But this drop-off in demand could be continued hesitancy in the marketplace to move forward on projects until the presidential election is decided. The fact that new work coming into architecture continues to slowly increase suggests that billings will resume their growth in the coming months.”

Key September ABI highlights

  • Regional averages: South (53.4), Midwest (50.1), West (49.5), Northeast (44)
  • Sector index breakdown: commercial/industrial (50.4), mixed practice (49.8), institutional (49), multi-family residential (48.8)
  • Project inquiries index: 59.4
  • Design contracts index: 51.4

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

Architecture Billings Index Remains Positive as Demand for All Project Types Continues to Increase

The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) was positive in July for the sixth consecutive month, and tenth out of the last twelve months as demand across all project types continued to increase.  As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the July ABI score was 51.5, down from the mark of 52.6 in the previous month. This score still reflects an increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings).  The new projects inquiry index was 57.5, down from a reading of 58.6 the previous month.

“The uncertainty surrounding the presidential election is causing some funding decisions regarding larger construction projects to be delayed or put on hold for the time being,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD.  “It’s likely that these concerns will persist up until the election, and therefore we would expect higher levels of volatility in the design and construction sector in the months ahead.”

Key July Architecture Billings Index highlights:
Regional averages: South (56.9), Midwest (50.1), Northeast (49.3), West (49.2)
Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (55.2), institutional (50.7), mixed practice (50.5), commercial/industrial (50.3)
Project inquiries index: 57.5
Design contracts index: 51.8

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

AIAU Launches New Series of Online Learning Modules

The AIA launches an online learning series on AIAU called Emerge by AIAU. Developed by the AIA Center for Emerging Professionals, with the goal of helping Associate AIA members gain credits in the most challenging Architectural Experience Program (AXP) practice areas, this series offers comprehensive and evergreen content through convenient online learning modules.

Emerge by AIAU offers online video-based courses to supply Associate AIA members with knowledge that is not always available at architecture firms. Associates can gain experience hours in NCARB’s Architectural Experience Program by completing each course, worth one hour of HSW credit, equal to one hour of experience in AXP. Incorporating short quizzes and activities in the videos and by allowing Associates to gain experience on their own terms, Emerge will help members adjust to new practice models in the profession.

Log-in to AIAU to check out the Ethics in Architecture and Economics in Architecture courses in Emerge, as well as 4 promotional courses selected to accompany them. New courses will be added each month to the Emerge series.

Visit Emerge by AIAU here: https://aiau.aia.org/emerge-aiau or learn more about it here: https://vimeo.com/173811499

Architecture Billings Index Shows Healthy Demand for All Building Types

Led by an active multi-family housing market and sustained by solid levels of demand for new commercial and retail properties, the Architecture Billings Index shows healthy demand for all building types due to its highest score in nearly a year. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the May ABI score was 53.1, up sharply from the mark of 50.6 in the previous month. This score reflects an increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 60.1, up from a reading of 56.9 the previous month.

“Business conditions at design firms have hovered around the break-even rate for the better part of this year,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “Demand levels are solid across the board for all project types at the moment. Of particular note, the recent surge in design activity for institutional projects could be a harbinger of a new round of growth in the broader construction industry in the months ahead.”

Key May ABI highlights:
•Regional averages: West (53.8), South (53.7), Northeast (51.2), Midwest (49.9)
•Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (53.7), institutional (53.0), commercial/industrial (51.0), mixed practice (51.0),
•Project inquiries index: 60.1
•Design contracts index: 52.8

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

About the AIA Architecture Billings Index
The Architecture Billings Index (ABI), produced by the AIA Economics & Market Research Group, is a leading economic indicator that provides an approximately nine to twelve month glimpse into the future of nonresidential construction spending activity. The diffusion indexes contained in the full report are derived from a monthly “Work-on-the-Boards” survey that is sent to a panel of AIA member-owned firms. Participants are asked whether their billings increased, decreased, or stayed the same in the month that just ended as compared to the prior month, and the results are then compiled into the ABI. These monthly results are also seasonally adjusted to allow for comparison to prior months. The monthly ABI index scores are centered around 50, with scores above 50 indicating an aggregate increase in billings, and scores below 50 indicating a decline. The regional and sector data are formulated using a three-month moving average. More information on the ABI and the analysis of its relationship to construction activity can be found in the recently released White Paper, Designing the Construction Future: Reviewing the Performance and Extending the Applications of the AIA’s Architecture Billings Index on the AIA web site.

SOPREMA Announces New Scholarship Program

SOPREMA announces its new scholarship program, a commitment to the continued success and growth of the industry.

“We’re proud to be offering this scholarship to students,” says Sara Jonas, marketing manager, SOPREMA. “By investing in the next generation, we are pledging our commitment to continuing the advancement of the industry.”

The SOPREMA Scholarship was founded to assist students pursuing a degree in architecture, engineering, construction management or a similar field at an accredited four-year college or university. Up to seven scholarships will be awarded. The program is administered by Scholarship Management Services, a division of Scholarship America, a designer and manager of scholarship and tuition reimbursement programs for corporations, foundations, associations and individuals.