This year’s consultants league table ranks the top 250 practices in the UK, then breaks it down into the top 100 architects, engineers and surveyors. But which have the class and the grace to punch above their weight? We report from the ringside
Tables compiled by Martin Hewes
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Building’s top 250 consultants fight night! We are proud to bring you the very best in construction talent: the surveyors, architects and engineers battling to become the best in their class. And at the top of the bill, we have the heavyweight multidisciplinary megaconsultants racing to set up offices in the world’s hotspots in a bid to become the undisputed word number one …
Atkins (ranked 1) is a veteran on the heavyweight circuit, and it’s been the UK’s largest consultant for years. Size does not guarantee victory, however, and Atkins lost the champion’s belt last year when a disastrous attempt to upgrade its computer system contributed to losses of £61.6m. But Atkins turned out to be a strong fighter with just the one niggling injury – its IT system – holding it back. The arrival of chief executive Keith Clarke – a rising star poached from Skanska’s main board – marks the start of a new era, and the share price has risen more than 600% this year. Atkins deserves to regain its title.
It’s only just moved up to the cruiserweight category, but expanding QS and project manager Turner & Townsend(ranked 22) has clinched the title thanks to a strong showing in this year’s Building Awards. The judges were impressed by the firm’s high level of client satisfaction: 75% of clients are regular customers. There’s also continuity in the firm’s workforce: of the 10 top directors, four have been there since the 1970s, and another three joined in the 1980s. Group fee income has risen 47% in the past year and 81% over the past three. The firm also won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in April.
It’s not the biggest, but architect Foster and Partners (ranked 37) certainly punches above its weight. Of all the firms in the Top 250, this is one of a tiny handful that can claim to be household names. The past year has seen the opening of London’s City Hall and the topping out of the Swiss Re building – two curvaceous Foster-designed landmark buildings. The practice tries to stay ahead with its materials research centre, workplace consultancy and a recently enlarged interior design department.
Founder Mark Whitby has given a high-profile to medium-sized engineering design practice Whitbybird (ranked 67), not least by serving as president of the Institution of Civil Engineers last year. The firm’s track record includes British embassies in Berlin and Dublin, Millennium bridges in York and Lancaster, the Berlin Stock Exchange and Heathrow terminals 2 and 3. Recent jobs range from the glamorous (Herzog & de Meuron’s Laban Dance Centre in London) to the distinguished (Cambridge University’s faculty of education) to the heartwarming (a courtyard sandpit for a nursery school in a deprived Northamptonshire town). The firm’s head count is static because of the parlous state of the office market – a key source of bread-and-butter jobs. But interesting projects keep rolling in: this summer a star-studded jury including Richard Rogers, Piers Gough and Alex Lifschutz chose Whitbybird’s design for a new bridge opposite the Millennium Dome.
Architect Feilden Clegg Bradley (ranked 116) collaborates with other practices in order to achieve things that similar-sized firms cannot manage on their own. When it was chosen to design a 382-unit housing scheme in Cambridge, it brought in two firms as collaborators. And in June the practice got together with four others to form PFI5, a loose confederation of design architects aiming to win some of the bundles of schools PFIs that usually get snapped up by larger outfits.
The practice is also capable of handling big schemes on its own, such as the 1000-unit student village for Queen Mary University. A reputation for environment-friendly design might explain why one of its projects last year was the headquarters of Greenpeace UK.
In the blue corner is structural engineer Adams Kara Taylor (ranked 189), currently working on Zaha Hadid’s Wolfsburg Science Centre. The project, on site in Saxony and due for completion in 2005, has been described by Building as “probably the most complicated structure humanity has ever tried to build”. This engineer is aiming to build it with pioneering solution using self-compacting concrete. Completed projects include Will Alsop’s Peckham Library, the refurbishment of an entire block of London’s West End, and the above-mentioned student village for Queen Mary University, completed at breakneck speed using the tunnelform construction method: the superstructure for a block accommodating 175 students was finished in just 32 days.
What is it about small structural engineering firms? You could fit the seven chartered engineers at Techniker (ranked 236) into a telephone box. But they make a little go a long way, partly by outsourcing reinforcing details to the Philippines via Hong Kong. The firm’s recent projects include a prefabricated house on wheels, a 19th-century mill converted into an art gallery, and the Optimum Sports Hall, an off-the-shelf design offering high quality at a low price. Techniker also contributed to Limited Facilities, a research report that became part of the Highways Agency’s official guidance on roads and bridges.
Recent corporate changes
Aedas In July 2002, Aedas AHR and TCN Architects merged to form Aedas Architects
Appleyard & Trew Conversion from partnership to limited liability partnership
Atkins Acquired Hanscomb in July 2002
Aukett Management review and the adoption of new accountancy rules
Building Design Partnership International Merger with Whicheloe Macfarlane
Blair Anderson Group One acquisition in 2002
Blake Newport Associates Opened a new North-west office
Blyth & Blyth Consulting Blyth & Blyth went into receivership. It was acquired via management buyout and in January 2003 emerged as Blyth & Blyth Consulting
Bucknall Austin This is a company formed from the purchase of the assets of Citex Project Services
Capita Property Consultancy Acquired a 51% stake in Gwent Consultancy in 2002
Chapman Taylor Converted to LLP in July 2002
Claruspcm The company is a joint venture between BDP and PCM, formed in 2001
Colliers CRE Merged with Gooch Webster Chartered Surveyors
Cyril Sweett Merged with DG Jones (with Middle East and Asia Pacific operations)
Derek Hicks & Thew Partnership Became company
EC Harris Purchase of Citex Asia
Feilden & Mawson Converted to LLP in 2001
Fitzroy Robinson In 2002 a Russian practice was acquired
Frankham Consultancy Group Became a company in July 2002
Franklin + Andrews Merged with Mott MacDonald in May 2002
Gleeds All figures exclude joint ventures and global alliances
Goyne Adams Changed to company on 1 April 2003
Harris & Porter Initiated a company for housing operations
Hurd Rolland Partnership Disposed of some non-profit making segments
Hyde Harrington Figures include Harringtons of Guildford
Hyder Consulting Listed as a plc in October 2002 and reduced its Asian operations
Kendall Kingscott Partnership Incorporated in December 2002
King Sturge Overseas changes
KSS Design Group Amalgamated four trading companies into one over the past year
Mace Acquired two companies: C2C and Macro. Macro has gone on to acquire a controlling part of FM24. A new subsidiary company – Como – has been formed
McCreadies Relocation to owner-occupied offices
Mott MacDonald Acquired Franklin + Andrews in 2002. F+A figures not included
Nightingale Associates In May 2002 Nightingale Associates joined Tribal Group
Osprey Mott MacDonald Formed on 13 March 2003 as a division of Mott MacDonald. It constitutes Franklin + Andrews Group’s Project Management Company, Osprey PMI, and Mott MacDonald’s management unit
Pace Group International Pace has grown via two mergers over the past two years
Parsons Brinckerhoff Now incorporates the power company PB Power
PCM The company recently transferred work to turnover-based contracts
Robinson Low Francis Acquired Cross and Hall
RyderHKS Merger between Ryder and HKS formed RyderHKS in June 2003
Schofield Lothian Recently acquired by Accord Group
Scott Brownrigg Acquired the hospitality consultancy Ransley Group in January 2003
Scott Wilson Company took over Knight Pissolo
Summers-Inman Summers merged with WC Inman & Partners
The Livemore Partnership Merger with Oakley & Partners will affect 2004 figures
Waterman Group Acquisitions in Belgium and Romania
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 were also 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 from their 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 AA Projects, Allen Construction Consultancy, Barker & Associates Chartered Surveyors, Barton Engineers, Blair Anderson Group, Bolton Priestley, Brodie Plant Goddard, Card Geotechnics, Castons, Construction Contract Services, Derek Evans and Partners, Ellis & Moore Consulting Engineers, Essex Goodman & Suggitt, Hyde Harrington, John Smith Projects, King Sumners Partnership, Martin Associates, Max Fordham, McAndrew Martin Partnership, McCreadies, Project & Building Consultancy, Plowman Craven & Associates, Poole Dick Associates, Purslows, RNJ Partnership, Sawyer & Fisher, SG Occupancy, Silcock Leedham, Stephen Davies Associates, Summerfield Rob Clark, Techniker, The Carl Fisher Partnership, Tozer Gallagher CS, Tully De’Ath Consultants, Veale & Sanders, Yolles.
Those unable to respond include Allies and Morrison, Aspen Consulting Group, Baker Wilkins, BDG McColl, Benoy, Bullen Consultants, Comprehensive Design Group, Curtins Group, DTZ, Entec UK, Geoffrey Reid Associates, Haley Somerset Consulting, High-Point Rendel, HLM Architects, Hurley Palmer Flatt, Keppie Design, Lambert Smith Hampton, MDA Group, Montgomery Watson Europe, NBA Quantum, Parkman, Pascall & Watson Architects, Pick Everard, Posford Duvivier, PRC Fewster, Purcell Miller Tritton, Rider Hunt, RWS Project Services, Sidell Gibson Partnership, Skidmore Owings & Merrill, Symonds Group, Terry Farrell & Partners, The Barton Willmore Partnership, URS Europe, Weeks Technical Services, Whicheloe Macfarlane MDP, WT Partnership.
Next year’s entries For information on how to enter your company into the Top 250 consultants, contact Martin Hewes at email@example.com.