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Specifications Survey

Each year, Metal Architecture conducts a survey of architects to learn more about the metal products they are specifying. The survey asks about what was specified in the previous year, and what architects expect to specify in the current year. This year's survey shows that after a positive 2016, 2017 is also looking to have increased specifications on metal products.

The indicators for a strong year are also echoed by other organizations, including the American Institute of Architects (AIA). In their semi-annual Consensus Construction Forecast that came out at the end of January, the AIA is projecting growth in overall nonresidential building spending by almost 6 percent. While this is slightly lower than the pace of growth for 2016, the commercial construction sector continues to lead the building recovery. Industrial construction is not expected to see much of an increase this year, while for 2018, AIA is projecting that the institutional construction sectors will generate much of the growth, especially in the large education structures market.

"However, entering 2017, the industry is looking forward to another couple of years of healthy growth," said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Ph.D., Hon. AIA. "The economy in general is doing well, with healthy job growth, rising wages, low interest rates, and very strong levels of business and consumer confidence. Construction levels surprised many on the upside this past year, particularly for most commercial categories."

Baker noted that the construction sector prospects for the next two years remain quite positive, and even with the challenges facing the industry, expectations are that construction spending will outperform the broader economy over the next two years.

According to the AIA's Architecture Billings Index, growth was the strongest in December 2016, especially in forms with commercial/industrial as well as those with institutional specializations. The architectural industry has a lot of momentum early in the year, with new design work coming in at a healthy pace and firm backlogs at sound levels.

The Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) agrees that while there will be growth this year, it will be less than what was experienced last year. Rising commodity rates and potential interest rate increases could affect how much growth the economy experiences.

"The U.S. economy continues to expand amid a weak global economy and, despite risks to the construction industry, nonresidential spending should expand 3.5 percent in 2017," said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu.

Basu continued on to say that despite some challenges, many construction firms continue to report that they remain busy and a recent Construction Confidence Index showed that while construction firm leaders may not be as confident as they have been in prior quarters, most continue to expect growth in sales, margins and staffing levels.

Growth in the architecture and construction markets tends to also translate in the increased use of metal construction products. Hopefully this is a trend that we will continue to see in the near future.

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