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Dodge Momentum Index Shows Rise in Institutional Planning

The Dodge Momentum Index posted an 8.6 percent gain in April, climbing to 162.4 (2000=100) from the revised reading of 149.5 in March. The Momentum Index, issued by Dodge Data & Analytics, is a monthly measure of the first, or initial, report for nonresidential building projects in planning, which have been shown to lead construction spending for nonresidential buildings by a full year. April’s gain marks the fifth consecutive monthly increase, and similar to February and March, was due to a large increase in institutional buildings entering the planning stage while commercial planning eased by less than one percent.

Since hitting its nine-year low in January, institutional planning has rebounded substantially, climbing 77 percent over the last three months. Health care and laboratory projects continue to dominate the sector, pushing institutional planning 50 percent higher on a year-over-year basis. Conversely, the commercial component has slipped in recent months as fewer warehouse projects have entered planning, though the sector is 21 percent higher than in April 2020. Overall, the Momentum Index is 31 percent higher than last April, which was the first full month of COVID-19 shutdowns.

There were 13 projects with a value of $100 million or more that entered planning within April. The leading commercial projects were a $400-million mixed-use office project in San Francisco and a $250-million warehouse project in Mesa, Arizona. The leading institutional projects were the $300 million first phase of The Cove JC laboratory and education facility in Jersey City, New Jersey, and a $175 million laboratory project in Boston.

April’s data highlights the nascent recovery underway in institutional building. However, given the average length of time between planning and project start, this rise will likely not impact construction starts until late 2021 or early 2022.