Architects See Glimmers of Hope for New Construction

Here’s a sign that the wounds in the construction sector may be slowly on the mend: Architects are working more.

For three straight months now, the Architecture Billings Index — a measure from the American Institute of Architects — has shown slight increases in work levels at architectural firms, with the latest figures showing a score in January of 50.9, compared with 51.0 in December. (Above 50 means work levels go up; below means they went down).

Of course, architectural work doesn’t always translate into new construction. But the index tends to provide a decent lens into the mood of the real estate world, and an increase may lay the groundwork for new construction projects months down the road.

The upward tick comes after what was generally a tough year in 2011, as governments and developers steered clear of much new development.

Broken down by types of work, architects working on apartment buildings registered a slightly greater increase in work than others, with a score for the past three months of 52.6.

One can likely expect this to continue: with empty rental apartments continuing to fill up as home-ownership rates drop, the multifamily sector has been the best-performing area of the commercial real estate world, and few analysts expect it to reverse course anytime soon.

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