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US Midwest region suffers continual downturn

The Midwest region of the US has suffered its third successive month of falling design workloads despite growing demand elsewhere in the country

The American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) closely watched Architecture Billings Index recorded an index reading of 48.3 for the Midwest in June.

Being below 50, this represented a decline from the previous month, and followed readings of 47.5 in May and 49.4 in April.

It suggests a deep-rooted slowdown in workloads for architects in the region, which includes 12 states from Ohio to Kansas and up to the Canadian border.

The US as a whole recorded its 10th rise in architecture work in 11 months, with a country-wide reading of 51.6 in June.

The Northeast led the way with a reading of 55.6; followed by the South with 54.8; and the West with 51.2.

Andrew Whalley, New York-based deputy chairman of UK-headquartered practice Grimshaw, told AJ the Midwest was suffering from a lack of economic growth.

‘On the coasts things are getting quite busy, but in the Midwest it remains quite sluggish,’ he said.

‘It is a very rural part of the country, and has lagged behind in terms of recovery. The lack of growth means fewer construction schemes.’

President Barack Obama is touring the Midwest this week as he moves to kickstart growth.

Whalley said: ‘I am sure the region will slowly catch up with the rest of the US. It is a fairly Democratic area and the president knows he needs to support it.’

Across the US, all sectors of the built environment industry offered greater work in June than May.

The commercial and industrial sector posted 54.7 on the billings index, with multi-family residential at 54.0, mixed practice at 52.4 and institutional work 51.8.

‘With steady demand for design work in all major non-residential building categories, the construction sector seems to be stabilising,” said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker.

‘Threats to a sustained recovery include construction costs and labour availability; inability to access financing for real estate projects; and possible adverse effects in the coming months from sequestration and the looming federal debt ceiling debate.’

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