100 Envelopes, please: The 2008 MEP design giants

The numbers are in. The computers are turned off. And with the MEP engineering community sweating with anticipation as to which firms made the cut, Consulting-Specifying Engineer is proud to announce the Giants 100 list for 2008, i.e., those with the most MEP design revenue in the previous year.

By Michael Ivanovich, Editor-In-Chief, Scott Siddens, Senior Editor, and Patrick Lynch, Contributing Editor August 1, 2008

The numbers are in. The computers are turned off. And with the MEP engineering community

Download the PDF of the 2008 Giants 100.

sweating with anticipation as to which firms made the cut, Consulting-Specifying Engineer is proud to announce the Giants 100 list for 2008, i.e., those with the most MEP design revenue in the previous year.

Comparing so many diverse firms with a wide range of accounting procedures is challenging. For one thing, while some of the listed firms are engaged exclusively in MEP design work, many others are A/E firms or turnkey design-build firms providing MEP design services as a subset of their offerings. For example, AECOM Technology Corp., Los Angeles, reported total a revenue of $4.28 billion and a total design revenue of $3.46 billion. The MEP design revenue was reported as 19% of the total design revenue, which calculated to an MEP design revenue of $656.89 million, putting them at the top of the Giants 100 for 2008.

Because participating in the Giants 100 survey is voluntary and subject to the availability of the data from the previous calendar or fiscal year, some firms choose not to participate or are simply unable to do so. Therefore, while the revenue for MEP design is substantial, there is more out there than reported in the survey.

Giant revenues

Giants 100 firms rang up $4.58 billion in MEP design revenue in the previous year and approximately $18.51 billion in total revenue. There are five new entries to the top 10: AECOM Technology Corp.; POWER Engineers, Hailey, Idaho; The Benham Companies, Oklahoma City; STV Group, Douglassville, Pa.; and Stantec, Edmonton, Alberta.

The most dramatic change to the Giants 100 is the entry of AECOM Technology Corp. Having never participated before, AECOM Technology commanded the Giants 100 list as the top firm, overtaking 2007’s No. 1 firm, URS Corp., despite URS having outstanding MEP revenue growth of $167.78 million over the previous year.

While some of this revenue growth is surely organic, substantial merger and acquisition activity is occurring in the AEC industry. This year’s Giants 100 firms disclosed some notable changes: URS Corp. acquired Washington Group International; Stantec acquired 18 firms, including RHL Design Group; TLC Engineering for Architecture, Orlando, acquired Piazza Engineering, Dallas; and ARCADIS-US, Highlands Ranch, Colo., acquired RTKL, Baltimore, as a wholly owned subsidiary. Carter & Burgess, which was ranked No. 6 on the Giants 100 list in 2007 with a total revenue of more than $498 million and an MEP revenue of $109 million, was acquired by Jacobs; the resulting firm name is Jacobs Carter Burgess, Ft. Worth, Texas. Jacobs Carter Burgess did not participate in the Giants 100 survey.

Giant employers

Giants 100 firms are significant for the number of engineers they employ: 39,364 in total, 16,118 of whom are MEP engineers. See Table 2 for top employers of MEP engineers. Historically, Consulting-Specifying Engineer has broken out structural engineers (3,942 reported in 2008), but not fire-protection engineers, which we’ll include in the 2009 survey.

What giants do

Table 3 shows where the bulk of project work occurred among Giants 100 firms. Consulting-Specifying Engineer asked each firm to allocate 100% of its revenues across new construction; renovation/retrofit; maintenance, repair, and operations; and commissioning projects. Twelve of the firms did not answer the question. Among those that did, 56% derive more than 50% of their revenue from new construction, and 24% derive more than 50% of their revenue from renovations/retrofits. Table 3 also shows that 59% of the participating firms provide some level of commissioning services. Two firms (EMC Engineers, Lakewood, Colo., and Sebesta Blomberg, Roseville, Minn.) are the most heavily committed to commissioning.

Although they are large, Giants 100 firms do not do everything in-house. Figure 1 shows what work Giants 100 firms tend to have performed by subcontractors.

Although there is little change from 2007 to 2008, note that acoustics subcontracting increased from 50% to 57% of Giants 100 firms. These firms could be shrugging off the next big growth market for engineering.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore reported in the “Archives of Internal Medicine” (July 28, 2008) that 33% of U.S. adults have some degree of hearing loss, with approximately 29 million of them having trouble discerning speech.

With baby boomers aging and the use of personal listening devices increasing among the younger generations, engineering indoor spaces to respond to or prevent hearing loss is likely to influence MEP designs.

The software side of Giants

Consulting-Specifying Engineer asked participating firms note if they used software in five categories: CAD, BIM, energy analysis, project management, and computational fluid dynamics (CFD). Twelve firms did not answer the question. Of those that answered, 100% use CAD; 88% use BIM; 85% use energy-analysis software; 74% use software for project management or collaboration; and 48% use software for CFD. Furthermore, approximately 27% of Giants 100 firms responding to the software question use all five classes.

Regarding BIM, the software question was not precise enough to link BIM to MEP use. For example, AEC firms may use BIM for architecture, but not for MEP. However, linking their software answers to total revenue reported, firms representing $10.56 billion are using BIM to some degree, and firms representing $2.16 billion are not. These figures do not include the revenue reported by firms that did not answer the software question.

Asked to name other software they used, the most frequent entries were for electrical-distribution design/analysis and lighting design.

Giants 100 firm ranking Name of firm MEP revenue (in millions) Giants 100 ranking previous year
1 AECOM Technology Corp. $ 656.89 Did not participate
2 URS Corporation $ 489.50 1
3 Burns & McDonnell $ 276.00 2
4 Burns and Roe Group $ 179.93 4
5 Syska Hennessy Group Inc. $ 151.31 7
6 POWER Engineers $ 145.70 15
7 Parsons Brinckerhoff $ 128.86 5
8 The Benham Companies LLC $ 112.70 16
9 STV Group Inc. $ 100.24 13

Giants 100 ranking Name of firm Number of MEP engineers
2 URS Corporation 2,986
7 Parsons Brinckerhoff 1,841
1 AECOM Technology Corp. 1,647
3 Burns & McDonnell 695
10 Stantec Inc. 616
5 Syska Hennessy Group Inc. 402
14 AKF Engineers LP 340
35 Middough Inc. 323
23 EYP Mission Critical Facilities, a company of HP 255

Percentage of revenue from types of projects
Type of project 0 or NA 1-10 11-30 31-50 51-75 76-100
New construction 13 0 12 26 36 13
Renovation/retrofit 12 4 28 35 19 2
Maintain/repair/operate (MRO) 67 24 7 2 0 0
Commissioning 48 42 8 1 1 0

Green giants

This is the first year Consulting-Specifying Engineer is reporting the level of activity Giants 100 firms have with green buildings. Editors used the number of U.S. Green Building Council LEED accredited professionals (LEED APs) employed by the firm as an indicator of commitment to garnering green-building contracts. The number of LEED APs is an indicator of a firm’s commitment to the green market because there are costs for preparing for and taking the LEED AP exam. However, the number of LEED APs does not necessarily imply how green thecompany is or how well it performs on green projects. That said, the total number of LEED APs employed by Giants 100 firms is 4,042, which accounts for almost 8% of the nation’s 51,452 LEED APs at the time Consulting-Specifying Engineer compiled the survey results. The editors noted that many firms had dozens of LEED APs on staff, so they created a histogram showing the distribution of LEED APs employed by Giants 100 firms (Figure 2). Table 4 lists the 11 Giants 100 firms that have 100 or more LEED APs on staff.

Giants 100 Ranking Name of Firm Number LEED APs in firm
10 Stantec Inc. 325
39 SmithGroup 253
1 AECOM Technology Corp. 216
22 HDR 206
31 Cannon Design 140
12 DLR Group 135
18 LEO A DALY 127
2 URS Corporation 113
27 HGA Architects and Engineers 103
32 KlingStubbins 101