Historically there is an approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending on commercial real estate (CRE).
From the AIA: Architecture Billings Index Points to Possible Economic Improvement
After an eight-point jump in March, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) fell less than a full point in April. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the April ABI rating was 42.8, down from the 43.7 mark in March. This was the first time since August and September 2008 that the index was above 40 for consecutive months, but the score still indicates an overall decline in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry score was 56.8.
“The most encouraging part of this news is that this is the second month with very strong inquiries for new projects. A growing number of architecture firms report potential projects arising from federal stimulus funds,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “Still, too many architects are continuing to report difficult conditions to feel confident that the economic landscape for the construction industry will improve very quickly. What these figures mean is that we could be seeing things turn around over a period of several months.”