The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) saw a jump of more than a full point in July, indicating acceleration in the growth of design activity nationally. The American Institute of Architects reported the July ABI score was 52.7, up from a mark of 51.6 in June. This score reflects an increase in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings).

The new projects inquiry index was 66.7, up dramatically from the reading of 62.6 the previous month.

“There continues to be encouraging signs that the design and construction industry continues to improve,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. “But we also hear a wide mix of business conditions all over the country, ranging from outstanding and booming to slowly improving to flat. In fact, plenty of architecture firms are reporting very weak business conditions as well, so it is premature to declare the entire sector has entered an expansion phase.”

As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending.

Key July ABI highlights:

• Regional averages: Northeast (54.3), South (54.2),  West (51.1), Midwest (50.8)

• Sector index breakdown: mixed practice (56.9), commercial / industrial (54.2), multi-family residential (53.3), institutional (50.6)

• Project inquiries index: 66.4.