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Design activity slows slightly to start off 2014

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The pace of design activity in the West has slowed the first two months of the year compared to the end of 2013, but is still in the positive, according to the latest American Institute of Architects’ Architecture Billings Index released on Wednesday.

The West reported an ABI score of 50.5 last month, down from 51.1 in January and down from 53.2 in December. A year ago the West showed a mark of 54.7.

The index reflects the approximate nine to 12 months between architecture billings and construction spending. A score of more than 50 indicates an increase in workload and payment for services.

In the past 12 months, the West has averaged 52.8, slightly higher than the national average of 51.4. Only the South has had a higher demand for design activity over the past year at 53.0.

Last month, the West had the second-highest ABI score, behind the South at 52.8, followed by the Northeast at 48.3 and Midwest at 47.6

The national ABI score in February was 50.7, up slightly from January’s 50.4, but down from February 2013’s score of 54.9.

“The unusually severe weather conditions in many parts of the country have obviously held back both design and construction activity,” said Kermit Baker, chief economist for the AIA.

“The March and April readings will likely be a better indication of the underlying health of the design and construction markets. We are hearing reports of projects that had been previously shelved for extended periods of time coming back online as the economy improves.”

Of the four sectors the ABI tracks, multifamily residential projects came in first with a score of 52.5 in February. This is the fifth straight month and eight of the past 12 months that multifamily design has led all sectors. Multifamily is also on a 22-month streak of increased billings.

Commercial and industrial projects came in second last month at 51.9, followed by institutional at 49.6 and mixed practice at 46.6.

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