Architecture Billings Index Exhibits Continued Strength

On the heels of recording its strongest pace of growth since 2007, there continues to be an increasing level of demand for design services signaled in the latest Architecture Billings Index (ABI). As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the August ABI score was 53.0, down from a mark of 55.8 in July. This score reflects an increase in design activity (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 62.6, following a very strong mark of 66.0 the previous month.

The AIA has added a new indicator measuring the trends in new design contracts at architecture firms that can provide a strong signal of the direction of future architecture billings. The score for design contracts in August was 56.9.

“One of the key triggers for accelerating growth at architecture firms is that long-stalled construction projects are starting to come back to life in many areas across the country,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “Long awaited access to credit from lending institutions and an increasing comfort level in the overall economy has helped revitalize the commercial real estate sector in recent months. Additionally, though, a crucial component to a broader industry-wide recovery is the emerging demand for new projects such as education facilities, government buildings and, in some cases, hospitals.”

Key August ABI highlights:

• Regional averages: Northeast (58.1) , South (55.1), West (52.5), Midwest (51.0)

• Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (58.1), mixed practice (57.1), institutional (54.0), commercial / industrial (50.4)

• Project inquiries index: 62.6

• Design contracts index: 56.9

The regional and sector categories are calculated as a 3-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.

About the AIA Architecture Billings Index
The Architecture Billings Index (ABI), produced by the AIA Economics & Market Research Group, is a leading economic indicator that provides an approximately nine to twelve month glimpse into the future of nonresidential construction spending activity. The diffusion indexes contained in the full report are derived from a monthly “Work-on-the-Boards” survey that is sent to a panel of AIA member-owned firms. Participants are asked whether their billings increased, decreased, or stayed the same in the month that just ended as compared to the prior month, and the results are then compiled into the ABI.  These monthly results are also seasonally adjusted to allow for comparison to prior months. The monthly ABI index scores are centered around 50, with scores above 50 indicating an aggregate increase in billings, and scores below 50 indicating a decline. The regional and sector data are formulated using a three-month moving average. More information on the ABI and the analysis of its relationship to construction activity can be found in the recently released White Paper,Designing the Construction Future: Reviewing the Performance and Extending the Applications of the AIA’s Architecture Billings Index on the AIA web site.

About The American Institute of Architects
Founded in 1857, members of the American Institute of Architects consistently work to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings, neighborhoods, and communities. Through nearly 300 state and local chapters, the AIA advocates for public policies that promote economic vitality and public well being.  Members adhere to a code of ethics and conduct to ensure the highest professional standards. The AIA provides members with tools and resources to assist them in their careers and business as well as engaging civic and government leaders, and the public to find solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation and world. Visit

Scott Frank
Email Contact

Posted in Architecture | Leave a comment

Autodesk Revit 2015 Subscribers Get Slew of New Capabilities with “R2” Update

Autodesk is making an updated release of Revit software for Building Information Modeling (BIM) available today to Maintenance Subscription and Desktop Subscription customers*.

Autodesk Revit 2015 R2 includes over 30 user-requested features that add powerful capabilities, enhance software performance and improve user productivity for architects, MEP and structural engineers.

In addition to addressing customer requests, the family of Revit R2 releases represents more value for Subscription customers who get access to the most current Revit technologies.

“Our customers are constantly looking for greater productivity and capabilities from the technologies they rely on to meet their own business needs.  We are releasing this update to Revit to help deliver on those needs and help our subscribers exceed the expectations of their clients using the latest, advanced technologies from Autodesk,” said Jim Lynch, Vice President, Building and Collaboration Products, Autodesk.

Coinciding with this release, Autodesk is also delivering on a continued customer request for access to site planning tools within Revit.  The new Site Designer Extension for Revit® 2015 software, available through the Autodesk Exchange store to select Subscription customers**, is based on an acquisition of site planning software formerly known as SiteWorks from Eagle Point Software Corporation.

1Figure 1: Site Designer enables architects, designers and planners to shape the terrain for building sites and communicate design intent with civil engineers.

- See more at:

Posted in Autodesk Revit/BIM, Software Updates | Leave a comment

FormIt – Getting Started – Part 2

In this click saver I want to talk about some recent updates to Autodesk FormIt. Some of you might have been trying out FormIt already since I last wrote about it, or I at least would hope :0). Starting August 29th there was a significant update with some enhanced features that takes FormIt to another level. FormIt can be used on multiple platforms; IPad, Android, or through your browser. Autodesk has been working hard to make all of the platforms behave the same way and have the same features in it. For this article I’m going to be using the browser version.


The website to get started is: and from here is where I’m going to start building a conceptual design model. Take note that you will need an Autodesk 360 account which is free: The reason for the Autodesk 360 account is for saving the FormIt models. Along with saving the conceptual design model as an AXM file it also automatically converts it to a RVT file. With that said, Autodesk is bridging the gap on being able to take the conceptual design model directly into Revit, no more throw away models.


Here are a few examples, if you pick on the Gallery button on the website you can see many more. FM3 As for navigation most of it can done though the mouse. The wheel does the normal zoom that we all know and love, holding down the wheel will do pan, and pick and drag on the drawing plane will orbit. There is a toolbar on the right that you can also use.

All of the main tools are at the top. When drawing lines to create a closed shape remember that it is just like any other design software, take advantage of the alignment lines and the ortho like mode. If trying to create a line from an existing line just hover your cursor over the endpoint and pick. FM4 One thing to add is take notice of the alignment lines as you are drawing. These are familiar and behave like other design software. You can also hover over an object snap for a second or two to develop a new alignment line. FM4B Once you have a closed shape a surface is created, just click on the surface and then click and drag it to turn it into a solid. While dragging to create the solid you will notice a temporary dimension. You can pick on it so a dialog box pops up so you can type in an accurate dimension.

What is also nice is you can use the “tab” key on the keyboard to open the same dialog box. Also as you drag to extrude you can hover over a existing edge of an object so the extrusion aligns to that edge.FM5 You can also click an edge and then click and drag the edge to taper it. FM6

FormIt automatically detects when you are on a surface when you draw lines. With that in mind you can create recesses or additions to the model by drawing additional closed loops or use the rectangle command. FM7 You can add levels to the model so you can start to get information for cubic feet and total square footage. On the right is a tab to open the properties palette. Pick on the top right tab to start adding or editing the levels. FM7B To add the levels to the model double click the model and open the properties palette. Now pick on the properties tab on the top left of the palette and check mark the area by level option. FM7C Notice how the model now has blue lines encompassing your model. What is really nice is you can draw lines to the level line edges or align items to those edges.FM7D As for selection of objects you have the standard drag to the left or drag to the right selection boxes but you also have a lasso. By right-clicking outside of the model you will get this option.


You also have the standard array feature to help with creating items like curtain wall or sun shade objects. By developing an object and either double clicking it or using one of the selection window you can right-click to activate it. You can array a single line like I did to get the curtain wall effect or select a entire extruded object like the sun shade.FM7F This will help you start modeling in FormIt but let’s put some context to the shape that you are creating. On the bar at the top is the ability to set the location of your design which will give you accurate shadows. FM8 Once this is done you will probably want to move the model to the desired location. Just double-click on the model to highlight it and right-click to see the editing tools. You have the standard move, copy, rotate, and array. You can also select two solids using the CTRL key and Join them together as one object. FM9

You can adjust the sun settings using the top bar to get a real-time daylight study. FM10 One of the last things to look at is adding materials to the surfaces to make the model a little more lifelike. On the right is a tiny vertical bar that if pick on it will open the material manager. To use a material first click on a surface and then select the material that you would like to use.

You can use the create button to create a custom material from any image file. You can also drag and drop a image file from windows explorer onto the FormIt drawing space to create a custom material on fly.


The great thing about FormIt is when I want to take the model into Revit I just need to login into my Autodesk 360 account and download the RVT file. FM13

Hopefully next month we will look at taking the model into Revit and the tools to covert the mass into building objects. This year Autodesk is really getting focused on bringing us conceptual design tools that easily come into Revit when we want to move further into design development. See you in class or at your office, Jarod

Posted in Early Design, Software Tips and Tricks | Leave a comment