For the first time since the summer of 2012, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) posted consecutive months of a decline in demand for design services.

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,” said 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.”

The AIA reports these key ABI highlights for the month of September:

  • Regional averages: South (53.4), Midwest (50.1), West (49.5), Northeast (44.0)
  • Sector index breakdown:commercial/industrial (50.4), mixed practice (49.8), institutional (49.0), multi-family residential (48.8)
  • Project inquiries index: 59.4
  • Design contracts index: 51.4
  • Justin there is an even bigger story looming here. It is worth reading Jianing Lou's article published in Sourceable this week. Last week I attended the PrefabAUS 2016 Conference in Sydney. I was impressed by the number of presenters who were architects of engineers who have started up off-site manufacturing businesses. These constructors were showing how they could bring solid design principles into the pre-build market. I saw this at PrefabNZ earlier this year. Many new design led construction enterprises. In both Australia and NZ the Prefab associations have at least 20 percent architect members. I am informed by those who attended a recent prefab conference in North America that designer membership is almost zero. US designers are resisting engagement with the inevitable industrialisation of construction. I am told that the US prefab product suffers as a result. In Australia the shunning of project housing by all but a few architects is a parallel. But that is changing as new innovative design and construction collaborations are rapidly evolving in the multi-unit space, as evidenced at yesterday's HIA Housing Summit in Sydney. Increasingly design will become an included element of most construction. That is the only way that better quality buildings can be created. Yes there will always be bespoke briefs for special projects, but for most their talents will be needed to create high quality – bespoke like- buildings drawing on a global value chain of pieces and parts. For those designers who do not see all of this coming the ACA report will be their future as well. I think Jianing's article makes this point nicely.