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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) has posted an overall score of 51.6 for September, up from 50.2 in August. The index is generally used to help gauge the onset of construction activity nine to 12 months in advance, according to The American Institute of Architects (AIA), the publisher of the index.

Scores above 50 on the ABI indicate an increase in architecture billings, while readings below 50 reflect a decline. For September, billings at architecture firms increased at their fastest pace since late 2010, according to the AIA.

The September index shows strong activity for multifamily properties, which leads all other sectors in terms of architecture billings. Kermit Baker, chief economist of AIA, explains that multifamily’s strong showing is a result of high demand for rental housing.

“Going back to the third quarter of 2011, the multifamily sector has been the best-performing segment of the construction field,” says Baker. “With high foreclosure levels in recent years, more stringent mortgage approvals and fewer people in the market to buy homes, there has been a surge in demand for rental housing. The upturn in residential activity will hopefully spur more nonresidential construction.”

Multifamily posted a 57.3 score, institutional posted 51, commercial/industrial posted 48.4 and mixed practice posted 47.8.

Regionally, the West is leading the way in demand for design services. The West posted a 53.4 score, followed by the South (51.9), Northeast (49.5) and Midwest (47.2). The index is a monthly tabulation, while the regional and sector categories are calculated as a three-month moving average.

The ABI is produced by the AIA Economics & Market Research Group and is gathered from a monthly “Work-on-the-Boards” survey that is filled out by AIA member-owned architecture firms around the country.

— John Nelson

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