A revival of the residential building will dominate the construction market in 1982, a leading construction industry economist predicted this week.

George A. Christie, vice president and chief economist of McGraw-Hill Information Systems Co., told industry members that all construction contracts will total $169.4 billion in 1982, 15 percent more than the level anticipated for 1981.

Housing will play the pivotal role in the increase, he said. Private nonresidential building is likely to rise, but a drop in publicly financed construction will cancel out that gain, Christie said in his 1982 Dodge/Sweet's Construction Outlook, presented in a speech to a conference of building industry executives at the Capital Hilton.

Dollar amounts of home-building contracts are likely to rise by 33 percent, of nonresidential construction by one percent, and of other construction by one percent, the economist predicted.

Christie foresees a decline in interest rates that will spur new construction.

"The strength of housing's response to an expected decline in interest rates from their lofty peaks is something of a guessing game," he said. "But even a modest decline in mortgage rates should bring next year's housing starts within the range of 1.4 million to 1.5 million dwelling units."

This year home starts are expected to be just about 1 million units, according to the National Association of Home Builders, just about half their level of a few years ago.

Christie also believes the nationwide office building boom reached its peak in 1981.

"The gap left by offices next year will be filled by the recovery of retail building and industrial construction," he said. "Since contracting for stores and warehouses mirrors the ups and downs of the housing market, the recovery of homebuilding in 1982 will be the catalyst for an upturn in store and warehouse contracting."

Industrial building provides the best opportunity for expansion, possibly starting in 1982 and developing more fully in 1983, Christie added.

In the Northeast region, which includes this metropolitan area, Christie predicted that total construction would increase 10 percent in 1982 to $28.6 billion.

Residential building construction contracts in the region will rise by 32 percent, led by a 46 percent burst in single-family houses, he said. By contract, nonresidential building was projected to decline by a percent and nonbuilding construction--including highways and bridges--by 6 percent.

McGraw-Hill Information Systems publishes the Dodge Reports on construction activity and Sweet's Catalog Files of building product information.