Design demand dips by a record amount due to Covid-19

A report conducted by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has found that the demand for design services from US firms has fallen by a record amount.

The AIA’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI) had a score of 33.3 during March, with any score below 50 showing a decrease in output. The February index, by contrast, was measured at 53.4.

The AIA’s records show that the drop is the largest in its 25-year history, surpassing a 9.4 reduction during the 2001 dotcom crash and a 8.3 dip caused by the 2008 meltdown.

Firms who specialised in institutional work suffered the least. Those in the healthcare sector reported increased demand, as did companies who specialise in school facilities, as many schools are closed for the remainder of the academic year.

New project inquiries and design contracts also dipped, with scores of 23.8 and 27.1 respectively.

In the first quarter, 59% of firms reported that their backlogs had declined, with a third of those stating they had fallen by 10% or more.

Kermit Baker, the AIA’s chief economist, said: "Though most architecture firms have made quick transitions to remote operations, the complete shutdown of business activity is severely impacting architects.

"The dramatic pullback in new and ongoing design projects reflects just how quickly and fundamentally business conditions have changed across the country and around the world in the last month as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic."

Image courtesy of the AIA

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