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MEP Giants revenue increases $5.9 billion

The 2019 MEP Giants gross revenue and MEP/FP revenue increased compared to last year
By Amara Rozgus, Editor-in-Chief, and Amanda Pelliccione, Director of Research, Consulting-Specifying Engineer, Downers Grove, Illinois August 13, 2019

The 2019 MEP Giants generated approximately $59.8 billion in gross annual revenue during the previous fiscal year, a clear increase of about $5.9 billion over last year’s numbers, in which firms generated $53.9 billionThis year, the 2019 MEP Giants earned $8.4 billion in mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection engineering design revenue, an increase over 2018 MEP Giants’ revenue of $7.6 billion 

Unlike past years, a large change occurred at the very top of the list. Tetra Tech’s High Performance Buildings Group (Glumac, NDY, Cosentini) joined the list for the first time at No. 5, pushing a couple of firms down the list with its amalgamation of other firms. Glumac, for example, previously showed up at No. 26 on the list and now is part of the larger company.  

Other companies also moved up more than 10 slots, primarily due to mergers and acquisitions. NV5 Global Inc. (No. 17) previously showed up in the No. 36 slot. Other firms that moved up on the list include Burns Engineering Inc. (No. 40), ThermalTech Engineering Inc. (No. 42), kW Mission Critical Engineering (No. 58), LaBella Associates DPC (No. 69) and RTM Engineering Consultants (No. 74). 

Several companies either joined the list for the first time or returned after time off from reporting data: WB Engineers+Consultants (No. 55), Loring Consulting Engineers Inc. (No. 56)Michaud Cooley Erickson (No. 73), Clark Nexsen (No. 79), Professional Engineering Consultants PA (No. 81), Osborn Engineering (No. 92), PBS Engineers Inc. (No. 97) and Global Engineering Solutions (No. 98).  

The list this year comprises 59% private companies (down from 60% in 2018)27% employee-owned companies (a slight uptick)8% limitedliability companies and 6% public companies. The 2019 MEP Giants are made up of consulting engineering firms (64%, up from 59% last year) and architectural engineering firms (30%).  

large jump in mergers and acquisitions occurred in the past yearone-quarter of the firms reporting acquired another company. In 2018, the numbers were a bit different, with 14% of firms acquiring another company in the previous fiscal year (see the article “MEP Giants mergers and acquisitions set a blistering pace in 2018).  

Table 1: Top 10 firms are listed by MEP design revenue. Jacobs topped the list yet again — as it has since 2013 — with 15% of its gross revenue dedicated to MEP design. Courtesy: Consulting-Specifying Engineer

Table 1 shows the top firms based on MEP design revenue, which is how the MEP Giants are ranked; the top four slots remain unchanged since last yearTable 2 shows the top MEP Giants firms based on total gross revenue. The complete rankings of all 100 firms is provided at www.csemag.com/giants.  

More than half (58%) of all 2019 MEP Giants’ revenue is generated from MEP design, with an average MEP design revenue of $83.9 million per firm, up from $76.4 million last year 

Rising yet again is the MEP Giants’ concern about “staffing: quality of young engineers. This year, a full one-third indicated it was their biggest corporate challenge. Flipping from last year, the next challenge was “evolving information technologies for design or project management” at 12% and “the economy’s impact on the construction market” at 9% 

Table 2: This shows the top 10 firms by gross annual revenue. MEP design revenue accounts for less than one-quarter of gross revenue at all of these firms, indicating the breadth of their engineering work. Courtesy: Consulting-Specifying Engineer

Human resources 

The 2019 MEP Giants firms employ 23,991 MEP/FP engineers, down from 26,751 engineers in 2018. On average, each 2019 MEP Giants firm has 112 mechanical engineers (up from 109 in 2018)101 electrical engineers (up from 98)20 plumbing engineers (up from 10)fire protection engineers (down from 9) and 26 environmental engineers (down from 41) 

This year’s MEP Giants employ 230,213 people, including all types of administrative staff and job titles (an increase from last year’s staffing total of 224,424 people)For the 2019 MEP Giantsfirms averaged 2,302 staff members, both engineering and nonengineering staff 

The engineering staffs of this year’s firms are made up of 16% females (up from 16% last year). On average, 43% of nonengineering staff are female, a slight increase 

On average, firms had 90 LEED Accredited Professionals (at any level) on their team and commissioning agents or professionals (CxAs or CxPson the team 

Figure 1: Among those employed by the 2019 MEP Giants, there are 26,602 mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection and environmental engineers (a slight decrease from last year’s 26,751). Nonengineering staff comprises 168,688 employees, which is a large increase from the previous year’s reported 158,769 staff, and even higher than the 134,802 people reported in 2017. Courtesy: Consulting-Specifying Engineer

In 2019, the MEP Giants earned 92% of their MEP design revenue for U.S.-based projects, a small increase from last year (90%)Several opportunities are open to MEP Giants outside the United States. Engineering services are provided in North America (Mexico, Canada) 57% of the time (an increase from 51% last year). Other areas of international revenue include the European Union (39%an increase), Asia (32%slight decrease), the Middle East (28%slight decrease), the Caribbean (27%an increase) and South America (15%slight decrease).  

When it comes to sustainable engineering, the number of U.S. Green Building Council LEED projects decreased for this reporting period yet again; 1,199 projects were submitted for LEED certification in the past fiscal year, whereas 1,372 projects were submitted for the previous reporting periodThe number of projects submitted in the past fiscal year to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Buildings Label increased to 376 projects, with an average of four projects completed by each of the 2019 MEP Giants, up from two projects in the previous year 

Project types 

The 100 firms listed here don’t handle all aspects of engineering. Many subcontract specialty services including acoustics (73%, up from 67% the previous year), computational fluid dynamics modeling (21%, down from 28%), construction management (17%, up from 16%) and security system design (17%, down from 20%). However, more firms are bringing some specialty services in-house, including virtual design and construction and integrated project delivery, to meet the needs of high-tech integrated buildings.  

As shown in Figure 2, MEP Giants indicated that they split their time between new construction (42%up from 41% last year) and retrofit/renovation (38%, no change). These numbers have deviated only slightly year over year, with a percent or two of change each year based on economic conditions. Rounding out the projects are maintenance, repair and operations (10%); commissioning or retro-commissioning (6%); and other (4%). For a more in-depth report on commissioning, read the October 2019 article on the Commissioning Giants. 

Figure 2: Similar to data from previous MEP Giants research, the amount of new construction is nearly the same as retrofit/renovation work. These numbers have varied only slightly since data collection started many years ago. Courtesy: Consulting-Specifying Engineer

The 2019 MEP Giants firms continue to work on several projects in hospitals and health care facilities; office buildings; industrial/manufacturing facilities; utilities, public works and transportation; and government or military facilitiesFigure 3 breaks down the various building types in which MEP Giants firms work; the health care and office building markets were at the top for this reporting period, as they were the past three yearsRead about several project profiles at www.csemag.com/giants.  

Figure 3: The 2019 MEP Giants earned revenue in two key building types: hospitals/health care facilities and office buildings. There was a tie for third between industrial or manufacturing facilities; utilities, public works and transportation; and government or military facilities. Courtesy: Consulting-Specifying Engineer

The complete picture 

Various new questions were introduced in the past three years to help provide a broader picture of how the MEP Giants firms are managing their businesses. As a result, we’ve uncovered some interesting facts about the 2019 MEP Giants: 

  • Many firms have lead engineers or experts who handle a particular focus: chief mechanical engineer (82%, down from 85%), business development director (80%, a decrease from 89% last year), chief electrical engineer (80%, down from 82%), commissioning engineer or coordinator (73%, down from 74%) and sustainability or green building coordinator (73%, down from 72%). 
  • New York is once again listed as the No. 1 state that firms call home, with 18% of companies headquartered there. California (9%) and Pennsylvania (8%) are next on the list 
  • In addition to traditional labor and overhead costs, MEP Giants spend capital funds on new tools (such as software or hardware28%), capital improvement (such as office space17%) and promotions and marketing (16%). Each of these numbers is the same as last year.  
  • Private project or building owners remain the No. 1 source of work/clients, with designbuild coming in second.

Survey methodology 

At the beginning of the year, the Consulting-Specifying Engineer staff collected and analyzed data from several consulting and engineering firms. Some of the top mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection engineering firms submitted their firms profiles to CSE; however, not all consulting firms were willing or able to participate in this year’s MEP Giants survey. The minimum MEP design revenue required for consideration is $5 millionalthough the smallest firms on this list far exceed that minimum (the smallest amount of MEP design revenue reported this year was more than $12 million) 

In 2019, more than 100 engineering firms provided their information for the MEP Giants program, with some newcomers or firms re-entering the program. Data and percentages are based on the top 100 companies that responded to the request for information; the results do not fully represent the construction and engineering market as whole. However, with nearly identical questions asked in previous years and more than 100 engineering firms participating this year, we present a qualified portrait of where the top engineering firms stand in 2019 


Amara Rozgus, Editor-in-Chief, and Amanda Pelliccione, Director of Research, Consulting-Specifying Engineer, Downers Grove, Illinois