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The first quarter of the year ended on a positive note for the Architecture Billings Index (ABI). 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 March ABI score was 54.3, up from a score of 50.7 in the previous month. This score reflects a sizable increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 59.8, down from a reading of 61.5 the previous month, while the new design contracts index dipped from 54.7 to 52.3. “The first quarter started out on uneasy footing, but fortunately ended on an upswing entering the traditionally busy spring season,” said AIA chief economist, Kermit Baker. “All sectors showed growth except for the commercial/industrial market, which, for the first time in over a year displayed a decrease in design services.” Key March ABI highlights: • Regional averages: Midwest (54.6), South (52.6), Northeast (52.4), West (50.2) • Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (54.6), mixed practice (53.7), institutional (52.9), commercial / industrial (49.8) • Project inquiries index: 59.8 • Design contracts index: 52.3 The regional and sector categories are calculated as a 3-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.