2011 MEP Giants

Over the past year, the engineering firms that make up the 2011 MEP Giants have made a commitment to having a diverse portfolio of building specialties, while continuing to invest in their young engineers’ development.

By Patrick Lynch, Project Manager August 12, 2011

Beginning in January 2011, the Consulting-Specifying Engineer (CSE) staff collected and analyzed engineering firm profiles from more than 100 companies that participated in the 2011 MEP Giants program. Some of the top mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP), and fire protection engineering firms submitted their firm’s profile to the CSE staff; however, not all firms were willing or able to participate in this year’s MEP Giants survey.

In 2011, more than 100 engineering firms entered their information for the MEP Giants program, compared to 76 firms in 2010. Our data and percentages are based on the companies that responded to the request for information, and the results do not represent the construction and engineering market as whole (though they are a great snapshot). However, with an identical survey from previous years and more than 100 engineering firms participating this year, we have a good feel for the industry based on historical data from previous MEP Giants programs.

The 2011 MEP Giants generated $28.44 billion in total revenue during the previous fiscal year and $3.82 billion in MEP design revenue. Table 1 shows the top MEP Giants firms based on MEP design revenue, which is how the MEP Giants are ranked. Table 2 shows the top MEP Giants firms based on total revenue. The complete table of rankings is provided at www.csemag.com/giants. The $28.44 billion in total revenue is a 63% increase from the 2010 MEP Giants, and the $3.82 billion in MEP design revenue is an 18% increase from last year’s numbers.

Growth in sustainable design

Green design principles and a focus on sustainability are not new concepts to the engineering community (and they haven’t been for a while). A larger variety of energy-efficient products, years of historical data proving sustainable design increases return on investment (ROI) for building owners, and a better understanding of how building systems function in their environment have all contributed to the rise of energy-efficient green building programs around the world. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the 2011 MEP Giants submitted more projects to U.S. Green Building Council for LEED certification than ever before in the MEP Giants program. Additionally, the MEP Giants continue to participate in the U.S. EPA Energy Star Buildings label program, but at a much lower rate than LEED programs.

According to the USGBC’s LEED Projects and Case Study Directory, more than 10,500 projects were submitted for LEED certification during the fiscal year in which the 2011 MEP Giants were compiling their data for this year’s program. According to the EPA’s Energy Star Certified Buildings and Plants directory, more than 6,800 projects were submitted for EPA’s Energy Star Buildings Label during the same period.

According to the MEP Giants 2011 data, during the previous fiscal year, the MEP Giants firms submitted 2,365 projects for USGBC LEED Certification and 312 projects for the U.S. EPA Energy Star Buildings label program.

Why is there such a discrepancy between the two programs? What data show that LEED-certified buildings retain their value better than EPA Energy Star buildings? Will this trend of USGBC and LEED dominance continue? These are questions routinely brought up at trade shows, industry events, and educational seminars, but there never seems to be a definitive explanation of why LEED certification reigns supreme.

Employing the engineer

The 2011 MEP Giants employ more than 49,500 engineers in the United States and Canada. CSE readers—engineers in the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection fields—accounted for more than 16,500 of the 49,500. According to the latest research by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 125,000 mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineers in the United States. The number of LEED Accredited Professionals in the MEP Giants data continues to rise, with 5,288 LEED Accredited Professionals appearing in the 2011 data.

Figure 1 shows the breakdown of the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineers. Note that 89% of the more than 16,500 MEP and fire protection engineers employed by the MEP Giants firms are either mechanical or electrical engineers, but only 4% of that same group of engineers holds the title of fire protection engineer at their firm. 

Location and building type

According to the survey, 83% of the 2011 MEP Giants said that the economy’s impact on the construction market was their biggest corporate challenge in the previous year. As the construction market continues to recover and the competition for projects remains high, engineering firms must diversify their specialties to open the door to all revenue-generating opportunities.

As part of the MEP Giants survey, the participating firms must submit information about three projects, including location, building type, and client name. According to the data from those 300 projects, the top five states (in order) with the most activity are California, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, and Texas. The top five project types (in order) with the highest number of builds were hospitals, government buildings, colleges and universities, retail facilities, and a tie between water treatment plants and wharf and shipping centers. Figure 2 shows a breakdown of the top building and project types by region of the country. The online version of the map—available at www.csemag.com/giants—is an interactive, Flash-enabled map that displays each state’s information when the mouse hovers over the state.

Investing in the future of engineering

The demand on young engineers to come into a firm and be a “full participant” is higher than ever before, and the learning curve is getting steeper. Not covered in the traditional college textbooks, many aspects of the engineering profession are learned on the job and over time, but will firms dedicate the time and resources to helping young engineers acquire these skills?

When members of the CFE Media and CSE staff sat down with Dr. Robert Bishop, OPUS Dean of Engineering at Marquette University, they discussed the future of engineering and what the next crop of young engineers will bring to the marketplace (video: https://tiny.cc/i6fl2). With the development of the new Discovery Learning Complex at Marquette, the engineering students will practice “Innovation in Action.”  Students will be able to apply engineering principles to the design and implementation of engineering devices. Everything involved from the initial concept to project completion will be covered; including the soft engineering topics sometimes overlooked in traditional teachings (budgeting, scheduling, specifications, and customer/client relations).

Marquette’s Innovation and Action and other similar programs hope to answer the question we hear from the 2011 MEP Giants, “How can young engineers come in and contribute right away?” The answer appears to be twofold: Protect your investment in the young engineers by offering (and paying for) continuing education opportunities to help them hone their technical skills and exposing them to situations where soft engineering skills are needed.

According to the 2011 MEP Giants data, when asked, “What educational and mentoring programs does your firm offer its engineering staff?” the results were as follows:

  • 97% offer paid membership to societies
  • 95% offer paid attendance to conferences/trade shows
  • 94% offer informal internal mentoring
  • 94% allow their engineers to attend webcasts during business hours
  • 93% offer paid training and testing
  • 81% purchase e-learning courses/materials for their engineers
  • 77% offer tuition reimbursement
  • 71% offer formal mentoring (such as 1:1 pairing).

Nothing replaces on-the-job experience, but an understanding by both the firm and the engineer of the importance of continuous training and improvement, in both technical and nontechnical skills, is a vital component of success.

Recognizing an opportunity to help with this problem, in October the CSE staff will host the first dedicated conference to engineering soft skills development. The Career Smart Engineers Conference (CSEC) program is designed to meet the needs of engineering managers and staff on topics that generally are not covered by technical conferences, engineering school, and trade shows. Educational tracks at the conference include training in leadership and management skills, setting career goals, communicating with clients, and developing internal mentor programs. To register for the conference and get more information about the educational sessions, visit www.csemag.com/careersmart.


MEP Giants remains one of the high-profile surveys CSE magazine compiles throughout the year. Small and large engineering firms alike are encouraged to enter the free program because of the exposure and publicity the MEP Giants program provides. In the following pages in this special MEP Giants section, there is a detailed analysis of the merger and acquisition activity in the construction market, a sit-down discussion with the corporate leadership at these leading engineering firms, and project profiles highlighting some of the innovative projects completed by the 2011 MEP Giants.