Merger and acquisition deals by MEP, commissioning, structural, and specialty engineering firms were up 14% nationwide in 2012 compared with 2011, according to consulting firm Morrissey Goodale (morrisseygoodale.com). Since the beginning of 2013, the consultant has reported more than 60 M&A transactions involving North American engineering firms, including interstate, intrastate, and international deals.
As economic recovery generates new business, engineering and engineering/architecture firms continue to seek M&A targets that offer an expanded employee base, a geographic springboard, or simply a broader mix of skills. A typical example: the November acquisition of Energy Ace, a Georgia-based commissioning and sustainability specialist, to beef up the green expertise of global engineering, architecture, design-build, surveying, and geospatial solutions firm Merrick & Company.
During the recession, multiple architecture and architecture/engineering firms also sought to broaden their client appeal by going on an engineering talent hunt. A third of AIA member firms now identify as “multidisciplinary,” including engineering services, compared with about 25% a decade ago, according to Morrissey Goodale.
SSOE Group is among the companies capitalizing on the volatile business climate. “We closed on three M&A transactions in 2012, so our emphasis in 2013 is on integration and realizing the synergies from the combined companies,” says CEO Tony Damon, AIA, LEED AP. “Our merger with Evergreen EDC in December should be transformative, allowing us to diversify our business and leverage our combined resources for new clients, in new markets and geographic locations.”
TOP ENGINEERING FIRMS2012 Total Revenue ($)1 Fluor $221,231,2002 Arup $149,738,5873 Affiliated Engineers $105,503,0004 WSP USA $105,362,3525 KPFF Consulting Engineers $91,000,0006 Syska Hennessy Group $82,097,5027 Henderson Engineers $63,485,7758 Smith Seckman Reid $52,919,3129 KJWW Engineering Consultants $51,092,15410 Vanderweil Engineers $50,552,200
TOP ENGINEERING/ARCHITECTURE FIRMS2012 Total Revenue ($)1 Jacobs Engineering Group $2,715,210,0002 AECOM Technology Corp. $1,610,390,0003 Parsons Brinckerhoff $337,900,0004 URS Corp. $314,266,7575 Buro Happold Consulting Engineers $194,220,0006 Burns & McDonnell $160,645,0007 Thornton Tomasetti $124,575,3938 Science Applications International Corp. $120,249,6869 Merrick & Co. $103,998,00010 SSOE Group $103,708,918
Damon credits a rebound in business from manufacturing and automotive clients, especially in the Southeast, for some of SSOE’s bullish attitude. Other hot prospects identified by Damon include the semiconductor industry in the West, and international markets, especially China, India, Mexico, and Brazil.
Steven Strauss, President of Glumac, reports good business from domestic micorelectronics companies and from Chinese clients, some of whom are developing entire new cities. Strauss has also seen an uptick in medical office buildings, mission critical, hospitality, and mixed-use commercial. “Projects that have been on the back burner are now re-emerging, and developer clients are more able to get financing through banks and institutional investors.”
For Bergmann Associates, the retail sector has been a bright spot. “The growth has been primarily with corporate retailers—big boxes, grocery stores, banks, restaurants—in New England and the Mid-Atlantic region,” says CEO Thomas C. Mitchell, PE. Property development companies in the East and Midwest have also been hiring the firm, and Bergmann has won new clients in science and technology, replacing some who have stopped building. The company recently added personnel in Michigan, Ohio, and the Carolinas.
In the West, Spectrum Engineers is getting a steady flow of work from retail, mission critical, and private commercial development, as well as some government clients. However, K-12 is “slow,” according to President and Principal Electrical Engineer Dave Wesemann, PE, LEED AP, ATD.
Considerable hustle is still required, even as the market improves. “Business continues to be challenging overall in the Southeast,” says Mark A. Gelfo, PE, LEED AP BD+C, LEED AP O+M, CxA, EMP, Director of Business Development and Sustainability at TLC Engineering for Architecture. “Competition remains high, and clients want more and more for less and less. During the past few years we have made significant initiatives in energy services, federal—though that market’s definitely on a downward track—mission critical, and hospitality, while maintaining our historically major markets such as healthcare, commercial office, and higher education.”
Like many engineering pros, Gelfo expects energy services—from commissioning, auditing, and retro-Cx to high-performance MEP design—to generate significant revenues for the foreseeable future. Spectrum’s Wesemann says advances in green technology, including LED lighting and variable-refrigerant flow HVAC, are persuading some clients to seek a more integrated delivery model to take advantage of all the potential savings.
According to Kenneth G. Diehl, Jr., PE, Senior Vice President at Smith Seckman Reid, building owners increasingly understand the high long-term ROI of green upgrades—a trend that can only be good news for engineers. “The biggest mover in this area is currently existing buildings that are using retrocommissioning to significantly lower utility costs,” he says. “The market is continuing to move toward a model that supports high-performance building operations.”