Architecture firm billings suffer record drop in March

Data show future work may also be in limbo

TRD NATIONAL /
Apr.April 23, 2020 12:30 PM
Renderings of Nvidia headquarters by Gensler, University of Virginia University Hospital Expansion by Perkins and Will and The Hoxton Williamsburg by Perkins Eastman (Credit: Gensler; Perkins and Will; Perkins Eastman)

Renderings of Nvidia headquarters by Gensler, University of Virginia University Hospital Expansion by Perkins and Will and The Hoxton Williamsburg by Perkins Eastman (Credit: Gensler; Perkins and Will; Perkins Eastman)

Billings from architecture firms plummeted in March at a rate not seen in 25 years.

The Architecture Billings Index dropped 20.1 points in March to a score of 33.3. Any score below 50 represents a decline.

“This is by far the largest single month decline the index has seen in its nearly 25-year history, far surpassing the declines of 9.4 points seen at the start of the 2001 recession and 8.3 points seen at the start of the Great Recession,” the American Institute of Architects said in a statement on its website.

Architects can work from home, but the projects they design cannot be built in many cases because of social-distancing rules in effect across the country. And new projects depend on financing, which has become much harder to get as the coronavirus has swept across the world.

The institute acknowledged that future work would also be affected, as uncertainty lingers about when non-essential workplaces, including construction and renovation sites, will be active again.

“Inquiries into new projects fell particularly low, and while the value of new design contracts signed for the month did not fall quite as far as some projects that were in the works continued to move forward, that score was also extremely low,” the statement said.

Since the pandemic hit New York, data from different sectors of the real estate industry have shown severe effects from the pandemic — and the near future remains foggy at best.

Luxury residential contracts in Manhattan from the past month were down 90 percent on last year, and in the mortgage space, nearly 6 percent of loans are now in forbearance.

Unemployment figures have also illuminated the shocking human toll of the pandemic. In the last week alone, some 4.4 million Americans filed for unemployment assistance, according to the New York Times. That brings the total number of applicants in the past five weeks to 26 million. [AIA] — Sylvia Varnham O’Regan


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