The American Institute of Architects (AIA) said today that its monthly billings index for January was 54.2, suggesting strong demand for design services. Any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings. An index measuring inquiries about new project jumped to 63.2 from 57.9 in December. "This is a compelling sign that there will be an increase in construction activity in 2014," AIA Iowa Executive Director Jessica Reinert said in a news release. "However, widespread recovery in the industry is hindered by lending institutions reluctant to finance construction projects." The Midwest region reported the most billing activity. The indexes are considered a measure of construction activity in the following six months to a year.