This year’s consultants league table ranks the 200 biggest, scariest practices in the UK – and then breaks them down into bite-sized top 100 architects, engineers and surveyors charts. So who are the Godzillas and the Godzukis of the industry this year? We report from under his desk, Tables compiled by Martin Hewes

Monsters Inc

Monsters Inc

There is always a bigger beast than you – unless you happen to be the all-consuming monster that is Atkins. For the second year running, the megaconsultant menacingly casts a shadow over its rivals in Building’s Top 200 consultants league.

Truly the Godzilla of the industry, Atkins bares its teeth with an army of nearly 5500 employees, a rise of about 1100 over the past year. The continuation of Atkins’ dominance should come as little surprise. Last year it topped the chart following a 600% increase in its share price. This marked a recovery from a 2002 that had registered a loss of £45m. Under the astute leadership of former Skanskaboss Keith Clarkeand old-timer Mike Jeffries, it completed its turnaround this year by announcing that the company was back in the black, posting a pre-tax profit of £62m.

Chairman Jeffries announced last month that he is to retire at the end of 2004, after 29 years. Does this mean that there is hope for the monsters of the industry lingering in Atkins’ shadow? Probably not – chief executive Clarke has replaced him with another heavy-hitter, Ed Wallis, who was top dog at Powergen between 1990 and 2003. Clarke also has not stopped on recruitment. He recently told Building: “Staff retention is important. It’s our key constraint on growth.”

RAARRR! Engineers

Atkins is the largest animal of the most dominant consultant species - engineers. The biggest seven engineers are included in the top 10 consultants across all sectors.

Not only is this due to the labour intensive nature of engineering, but is perhaps a sign of the profession’s worldwide scope. For example, the three biggest engineers behind Atkins have all worked on reconstruction contracts in Iraq. Halcrow and Mott MacDonaldhave worked for UK-led authorities in Basra, while Kellog Brown & Root is working on billions of dollars-worth of contracts across the country as a subsidiary of US construction giant Halliburton.

The biggest engineer internationally is Faber Maunsell with just shy of 16,000 staff worldwide and edging Atkins by less than 600 employees. Its global reach was caused by the acquisition of consulting engineer Oscar Faber in 2001 by Aecom, a US multinational company.

Grrr! Surveyors

Not satisfied with being the biggest fish in the engineer’s pond, Atkins is also the UK’s leading surveyor with nearly 1500 employees in that division. However, fewer than 700 of these are QSs. The firm with the most QSs is EC Harris with 759. This bulk of talent helps propel the cost consultant to fourth across all sectors, swapping places with Kellog Brown & Root after finishing fifth in last year’s table.

EC Harris has been on something of a growth drive in the past year. Last September it announced that it was to become a limited liability partnership. This greatly increased the capital at the firm’s disposal and heralded a superleague of cost consultants that decided to follow suit. Two of those that followed suit, Gardiner & Theobald and Davis Langdon have edged up one place each to rank fifth and sixth respectfully on the surveyors’ list.

Eek! Architects

The Godzukis – a somewhat smaller beast – of the consultants are the architects. The biggest architect BDP International with 306 chartered architects, ahead of signature architect Foster and Partners with 218. Despite topping this league it can only come in 25th across all sectors.

Aside from Foster, few signature architects made any real impression this year. Grimshaw came in a creditable joint 39th with 35 chartered architects, but even this puts the practice four places down on 2003.

One noticeable feature each year is how many architects are employed at firms that are not dedicated to design. Cost consultant Cyril Sweett came in joint 80th, as did project manager Hornagold & Hills, while surveyor King Sturge came in at 100.

Another non-specialist architect lurks on the list. Just as Godzilla used to make guest appearances in the films dedicated to rival Japanese monsters, so Atkins also rears its head in the architects’ table. It has 189 chartered architects meaning it enters the table in bronze position.

Key for all tables

na = not available or not supplied
* = company has undergone recent corporate changes (see below for details)
** = project managers only
*** = may not be included in total number of UK chartered staff

Recent corporate changes

Atkins Divested Atkins Americas. Data includes Faithful & Gould
B3 Burges Main board restructured, a new management structure installed, and a new office opened
Babtie Group Babtie acquired Fawley Acquatics, a company specialising in marine environment. In 2004 Babtie was acquired by Jacobs
Baker Mallett Converted to Limited Liability Partnership in January 2004
Capita Symonds Company formed by the merger of Capital Property Consultancy and Symonds Group in February 2004. Percy Thomas Architects was acquired in June 2004
CB Richard Ellis IRE/CBHP merger completed in July 2003 to form B Richard Ellis
Chandlers KBS Purchased Fraser Pritchard Associates in North Wales
Cyril Sweett Cyril Sweet linked up with Drees R Sommer, a leading German project manager, in early 2004
EC Harris EC Harris converted its legal form from a private partnership to a limited liability partnership on November 1st 2003
Fairhursts Design Group one director resigned, two directors appointed, and one branch office closed
Fitzroy Robinson Acquisition of a practice in MoscowGleeds All figures are exclusive of joint ventures and global alliances
GVA Grimley Acquisition of Saxon Law and Second London Wall Project Management
Harris Partnership The recent acquisition of a practice has boosted turnover
Haywards Property Services Haywards acquired ISGO earlier in 2004, and is in the process of merging its building consultancy division.
Hyder Consulting Two acquisitions in Australia
Mace Mace recently set up two new companies
Michael Laird Architects Incorporated in 2003
Mott MacDonald Acquisition of GRC Consultants and HLSP. Mott MacDonald also owns Franklin + Andrews
Nightingale Associates Opened two new UK offices, plus a support office in South Africa
NPS Property Consultants Two new offices were opened in 2003/2004
RW Gregory Changed to a Limited Liability PartnershipRobert West Consulting Establishment of a new West Midlands office
Scott Wilson> Takeover of Eagles Lawton Moody in Birmingham
Skanska Technology Closure of one UK office
Thomasons Acquired small consultancy
Tooley and Foster Partnership Took over an architects group from Watts & Partners in July 2003
White Young Green Four acquisitions over the period Jan-June 2004


Nearly 500 firms were contacted for this year’s survey. They were asked for details on the number of chartered staff, non-chartered and technical staff, domestic and worldwide fee incomes and fees per employee. Practices werealso asked questions relating to speed of invoice payment, staff recruitment, likely wage increases, margins, areas of work, e-business initiatives, and IT spend. The data in the tables and on the following page is taken directly fromtheir replies. Total chartered staff figures are published exactly as provided by the firms. Where totals do not correlate to the breakdowns of chartered staff, this may be because of the inclusion in one set of figures but not another of staff who are not yet chartered.

Survey newcomers include Anshen Dyer, Atkins Walters Webster, B3 Burges, Black & Veatch Consulting, Capita Symonds , CB Richard Ellis, Church Lukas, ColinToms & Partners, Coteba, DLG Architects, DSSR, EIC, Gerry Lytle Associates, Holder Mathias Architects, Hulme Upright Manning, Inventures, Jackson Coles, Keane Associates, Keppie Design, Mackenzie Partnership, NPS Property Consultants, ORMS Designers & Architects, Pascall & Watson, PEP Group , RH Partnership Architects, Sanderson Weatherall, Scitech Engineering, Shepheard Epstein Hunter, Thomasons, Trett Consulting, Watson Batty Architects & Surveying, WT Partnership, Zisman Bowyer & Partners

Those unable to respond include Alan Baxter & Associates, Allen Construction Consultancy, Amec, Capita Property Consultancy, Capital Project Consultancy, CarlBro Group, Castons, Chetwood Associates, Cooper Cromer, DTZ, Faber Maunsell, Hilson Moran Partnership, Jacobs, KSS Design Group, Lewis & Hickey, Mason Richards Partnership, Mouchel Parkman, Needlemans, Osprey Mott MacDonald, PellFrischmann Group, Pringle Brandon , RHWL Partnership, Ryden, Schofield Lothian, Silcock Dawson & Partners, Storey Sons & Parker, Systech Group, Tweeds, Walfords, Whitbybird

For full rankings of all 241 consultants that responded, log on to Building’s new-look website

Next year’s entries For information on how to enter your company into the top 200 consultants, contact Martin Hewes at