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Security, sustainability among priorities at nation's largest engineering firms

IMEG and Thornton Tomasetti join a growing number of firms that are tapping into the security technology and operations consulting business.

August 31, 2018 |

Major new developments at engineering and engineering/architecture firms in 2017-18:

BURNS & MCDONNELL strengthened its direct-hire construction offering with the acquisition of two specialty contractors: AZCO, a full-service industrial constructor and pipe and metal fabricator based in Appleton, Wis.; and Ref-Chem, a Houston-area heavy industrial construction, engineering, EPC, and maintenance firm. The moves expand B&M’s integrated design-build (single project team under one roof) capabilities.

CORE STATES GROUP entered the sustainable energy services business, with engineering design expertise in combined heat and power, solar, battery storage, fuel cell, and electric vehicle charging. The firm’s largest project to date: energy storage systems in 10 locations throughout Southern California for the Irvine Ranch Water District. The network will allow IRWD to store energy when rates are lowest and make it available when rates are highest, saving approximately $500,000 annually for IRWD.


See also: Top 70 Engineering Firms - 2018 Giants 300 rankings
See also: Top 35 Engineering/Architecture Firms - 2018 Giants 300 rankings
Sponsored by Viega


DBHMS piloted radiant cooling on variety of projects, from residential affordable housing to museums and libraries. “The development of constructible designs for this system type helped improve thermal comfort and air quality while keeping first costs comparable to all air systems,” according to the Chicago-based MEP firm.

DESIMONE CONSULTING ENGINEERS expanded its service offering with façade consulting, property loss consulting, and forensic engineering. The firm’s forensic architects, structural engineers, and MEP engineers were among the first on the ground to assess infrastructure damage and property loss following Hurricanes Irma, Harvey, Jose, and Maria.

DEWBERRY made strides toward its commitment to the AIA 2030 Challenge. The firm reported on more than 150 projects, representing 10.1 million sf of design work, and created energy models for half the projects. It is developing an internal “road map” for achieving net zero carbon on all projects by 2027—three years ahead of the Challenge’s goal.

GHT LTD. designed several complex MEP systems to meet the WELL Building Standard. On one such project—the American Society of Interior Designers headquarters in Washington, D.C.—sensors inform environmental air quality, measuring temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, and particle counts. The plumbing systems achieved 40% water use reduction and incorporated advanced water filtration systems, with sediment, carbon, and ultraviolet filters. The lighting strategy eliminates eyestrain and glare, with the help of automatic daylight harvesting, automatic shade control, and occupancy/vacancy sensors.

HALFF ASSOCIATES developed an “opportunity evaluation form” to help its teams determine which projects to pursue, better strategize proposals, and ease the overall proposal process. In just six months, the firm increased its success rate with the same number of proposals, from 44% success to 49%. The firm also initiated a content marketing campaign that involves its staff authoring technical and thought leadership articles to increase website traffic.

IMEG CORP. broadened its reach in the AEC market with three strategic acquisitions: BLW Security Group, an Austin, Texas-based security consulting and engineering firm; Taylor RyMar, a Phoenix-area engineering firm; and FES Group, a facility engineering and architectural firm based in Wixom, Mich.

MAGNUSSON KLEMENCIC ASSOCIATES expanded its in-house training program with a concept-design sketching class. The course teaches MKA staff how to more effectively communicate complex structural concepts with architectural clients using soft pencil sketching techniques.

Also, the firm designed a pioneering composite steel core structural system for the 59-story Rainier Square tower, currently under construction in Seattle. The unique solution, which consists of two connected steel plates around a cavity filled with high-strength concrete, is expected to reduce the project’s frame construction schedule by nine months—or by 40%—compared to a traditional reinforced concrete core system. The design innovation moves much of the frame construction work off site and eliminates the need to install rebar and formwork.

MARTIN/MARTIN shifted toward using technicians rather than engineers to create building information models. This has been a catalyst for more efficient production teams and reducing overall project expenses. The firm is among several engineering companies (Long Beach, Calif.–based P2S is another) to implement a customer relationship management (CRM) system to support business development efforts and streamline project administration. “Having accurate data that we can use to track and report on long-term project opportunities, maintain and establish new client relationships, and improve in-house communication has proven to be worth the investment,” according to Martin/Martin.

MORRISON HERSHFIELD developed a guide on the application of the Thermal Energy Demand Intensity metric in design and construction ( This emerging metric measures a building’s modeled heating needs that are primarily influenced by building enclosure insulation and airtightness, and by the ventilation system. The keys to achieving low-TEDI buildings: minimize the impact of thermal bridging and optimize ventilation heat recovery.

THORNTON TOMASETTI launched Operational/Technical Security Services (OTSS) to complement its Weidlinger Protective Design practice. The OTSS group provides a range of security solutions—from analytics-based security cameras to advanced facial and iris technology to drone detection devices—to architects, business owners, developers, and public agencies to combat a variety of natural and human-caused hazards. Retired U.S. Army Colonel Bill Edwards heads the new program.

The firm also acquired U.K.-based security consultancy MFD to strengthen its protective design and security services throughout the U.K., Middle East, Africa, and Australasia.   

Its new TT Gives Back program doubles the number of paid hours—to 16—for employee volunteer efforts. As part of the program, the firm will back at least one international service project each year for a multi-office team to travel to assist disadvantaged communities. The 2018 project involves partnering with Bridges to Prosperity to build a suspension bridge in Nicaragua.

Using fully automated robotic stations, WOOLPERT can measure the grade of a factory floor to the submillimeter level. Stations are mounted to columns and connected to a wireless network, which provides daily digital feedback. The technique reduces the man-hours necessary to perform this task from 80 hours per week, to 20.

WSP strengthened its Specialty Services group with several high-demand design and consulting services: acoustics, building technology systems, commissioning, fire protection and life safety, lighting design, IoT, and sustainability. Herbert Els, SVP with WSP, was recently named Group Director of Specialty Services.

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