Business conditions at architecture firms are healthy in the busiest season for members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), according to Kermit Bakers, AIA's chief economist.

Baker said March is historically the month when AIA architects see the greatest gains in billings, followed closely by February and April. Firms are reporting more stable levels after a year-end spike that mainly affected firms in the Northeast. Activity remained virtually unchanged in March from February levels, as the AIA's Architectural Billings Index (ABI) ticked up a modest 0.1 point to 52.6 points, while the index for inquiries for new projects dropped 0.1 point to 61.8 points. Because any reading above 50 points indicates growth, both measures point to healthy business conditions at present and for the near future.

After spiking from November through January, the ABI has returned to levels seen last fall. Because inquiries remain healthy, further gains in the months ahead are expected.

Firms in the Northeast have accounted for most of the volatility in recent months. The ABI for firms in the Northeast jumped from 52.5 points in October to 71.4 points in December and then fell back to 50.2 points in March. Since this region experienced the most variation in weather conditions over this period, it may have been part of the reason for the volatility. Firms in the Midwest and South have reported fairly stable billings gains, while firms in the West are reporting a somewhat slower growth in billings.