Demand for architectural design services in the Midwest rose only slightly in February, reflecting continued weakness in the region, according to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Architectural Billings Index (ABI).

Although the Midwest index rose more than a point, to 47.6, in February, a score of 50 or higher is required to denote increased demand for design work. By comparison, the national index remained flat, rising from 50.4 to 50.7 between January and February.

Demand was strongest in the South (52.8), followed by the West (50.5) and Northeast (48.3).

By sector, multi-family housing (52.5) performed strongest, followed by commercial/industrial (51.9), institutional (49.6) and mixed use (46.6).

“The unusually severe weather conditions in many parts of the country have obviously held back both design and construction activity,” says AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker.“The March and April readings will likely be a better indication of the underlying health of the design and construction markets. We are hearing reports of projects that had been previously shelved for extended periods of time coming back online as the economy improves.”

Further analysis by AIA indicates that “on a regional basis, conditions remained essentially the same in February as they have for the last four months, with architecture firms located in the Northeast and Midwest experiencing declining billings, and firms located in the South and West seeing increased billings. The pace of the decline slowed slightly in both the Northeast and Midwest last month, and there remains optimism that conditions will improve again with the arrival of spring weather.”

ABI, produced by AIA's Economics & Market Research Group, provides a nine- to 12-month glimpse of future non-residential construction spendin