September’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI) released today by the AIA reports another month of increased design activity. An economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The AIA reported that September’s ABI score was 55.2, up from 53.0 in August.  Any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings whereas a mark below 50 represents contraction.

The new projects inquiry index was 64.8, rising from 62.6 in August. Values in this category have consistently remained above 50 since February 2009.

AIA’s newest metric tracks new design contracts, which can signal the future direction of architecture billings. September’s score was 56.8, marginally below August’s 56.9, which was the highest ever recorded in the category.

“Strong demand for apartment buildings and condominiums has been one of the main drivers in helping to keep the design and construction market afloat in recent years,” said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA. “There continues to be a healthy market for those types of design projects, but the recently resurgent Institutional sector is leading to broader growth for the entire construction industry.”

Here are the national and sector breakdowns for the September ABI report.

National Highlights

National Billings: September’s score rose from 53.0 in August to 55.2 in September. This marks the fifth consecutive month that the ABI has been above 50.
Project inquiries: This category experienced a 2.2-point increase from August (62.6) to September (64.8).
Design Contracts: The value in the design contracts category basically remained the same, only dropping from 56.9 in August to 56.8 in September.

Regional Highlights

Northeast: Although the September score (51.1) fell 3.3 points from August (54.4), the region experienced its fourth consecutive month above the 50-mark line.
Midwest: In its fifth consecutive month of growth, the Midwest received a 55.1 in September, up from 53.6 in August.
South: September’s score deflated slightly, from 56.0 in August to 55.3 in September. The South is the only region to boast more than two whole years of consistent monthly growth.
West: September’s score of 54.2 hardly changed from August’s 54.4. This is the region’s fourth consecutive month of growth.

Sector Highlights

Multifamily Residential: September’s 55.3 score is down from August’s 56.9. Design activity for the multifamily residential sector is still strong—the September score marks three years of scores above 50 for the category.
Commercial/Industrial: The value in this sector hardly changed—September’s score of 50.8 is only a 0.1-point decrease from August. This marks nine consecutive months of growth.
Institutional: Demand for institutional projects has surged in the second half of the year. September’s score of 54.9 is up from August’s 54.6 and indicates the fourth consecutive month of growth following nine months of contractions.
Mixed Practice: At 53.8, September’s score is down from August’s 57.0. The sector has experienced six consecutive months on the positive side of the chart.

Charts: Maggie Goldstone; Source: AIA Architecture Billings Index