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Looking Up

As journalists writing about architecture and construction on a regular basis, a sure-fire way we know the economy is picking up is when it becomes difficult to get architects and contractors on the phone for more than a few minutes. While this is obviously a good sign for business and the economy in general, it does make doing our jobs more difficult at times. Although, I think we can all agree that it is a good kind of difficult, as we love nothing more than hearing how busy the architects and contractors are on a daily basis.

There are other signs that the economy is starting to pick up as well. The U.S. Census Bureau's August 3 nonresidential construction spending report, while showing no change month-over-month in June 2015, does show an 11.5 percent increase on a year-over-year basis. According to Anirban Basu, chief economist for Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., this is the largest year-over-year growth during a calendar year's first six months since 2002 when the Census Bureau began tracking construction spending, serving as further proof of the recovery for nonresidential construction. In June, Basu notes that eight of the 16 nonresidential construction sectors experienced growth, indicating that June's estimate may be revised higher. On a yearly basis though, Basu says 15 of the 16 sectors have expanded.

The American Institute of Architects' (AIA) most recent Architecture Billings Index (ABI) is also showing a sustained demand for design serves in almost all nonresidential project types. While the July ABI score is down a point from June's, the score of 54.7 still reflects an increase in design services. Additionally, the new projects inquiry index was up slightly from June's reading. AIA chief economist, Kermit Baker, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, says that with the flurry of design activity in recent months, some architects have reported a break in the logjam created by clients placing projects on hold for indefinite periods, which bodes well for business conditions in the months ahead. There is some concern, he adds, that rapid growth in construction costs could escalate beyond development capital and municipal budgets, triggering some contraction in the marketplace down the road.

Do you agree with the recent market reports? Is business starting to look up finally?

Drop us a note and let us know what you're working on. We love to see the projects that are keeping our readers busy, and are always looking for new projects to feature in the magazine.


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