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ABI July 2020: Business Conditions Remain Soft at Architecture Firms

The majority of architecture firms continued to report a decline in their firm’s billings in July, as the pace of that decline remained at about the same level as in June, with an ABI score of 40.0 (a score below 50 indicates a decline in firm billings), compiled by the American Institute of Architects. Inquiries into new projects continued to show just a modest decline, but more seriously, the value of new signed design contracts slipped from its June level. Unfortunately, with the continued resurgence in COVID-19 cases in many areas of the country, clients may be interested in starting new projects, but remain reluctant to sign a contract.

Firm billings remained soft at firms in all regions of the country in July as well, with firms located in the Northeast continuing to report the weakest conditions, although the pace of the decline did continue to stabilize again this month from the low point in April. By firm specialization, conditions remain softest at firms with a commercial/industrial specialization, while firms with an institutional specialization saw their decline in billings stabilize somewhat.

This month we also asked responding firms to estimate how they think their firm’s revenue will change in the third quarter of 2020, as compared to the second quarter. On average, firms expect a decrease of 4.6 percent in their revenue, although more than one quarter of responding firms (27 percent) anticipate that their revenue will increase. Differences in expectations were most stark by firm specialization, with firms with a commercial/industrial specialization expecting their revenue to decline by 5.7 percent, and firms with an institutional specialization predicting a loss of 5.4 percent.

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