The western United States saw a return of higher design activity in March after a two-month dip, according to the latest American Institute of Architects’ billings index released Wednesday.

The West registered an Architecture Billings Index score of 50.4 last month, up from 46.7 in February and 49.3 in January. A year ago, the West recorded a 47.7 Architecture Billings Index score.

Any score below 50 indicates a drop in workload and payment for architectural services.

The billings index is an economic indicator of construction activity that reflects the approximately nine to 12 months between architecture billings and construction spending.

“Business conditions at architecture firms generally are quite healthy across the country,” said Kermit Baker, chief economist for the American Institute of Architects.

He added that the first couple months of the year were set back because of cold weather.

The West averaged an ABI score of 48.8 during 2015’s first quarter. This compares with 50.5 in the first quarter of 2014, and 52.6 during the first quarter of 2013.

Last month, the institutional sector had the highest design activity with an ABI score of 53.2.

This is the third consecutive month that institutional projects were more popular, compared with all four sectors the Architecture Billings Index tracks.

The commercial and industrial sectors registered a score of 53.0, followed by multifamily residential at 49.7 and mixed-use projects at 46.2.

“The multifamily residential market has seen [an] occurrence of back-to-back negative months for the first time since 2011, while the institutional and commercial sectors are both on solid footing,” Kermit said.

The Architecture Billings Index displayed a modest increase in design activity, for the second consecutive month, across the country in March.

The national ABI score last month was 51.7, up from February mark of 50.4 and January score of 49.9. A year ago, the national ABI registered a score of 48.8. Through the first three months of this year, the national average ABI score is 50.67.

The Northeast was the only area where design activity did not increase last month, with an ABI score of 45.8.

The South had the highest design activity in March, with an ABI score of 58.2, followed by the Midwest at 51.0 and the West at 50.4.

The AIA added an indicator in March 2014 that measures trends in new design contracts at architecture firms.

The score last month was 52.3, up from February’s mark of 50.0 and January’s 51.3. In March of last year, the design contracts score was 48.2.

Article from San Diego Source.