Southeast design firms are for the most part making gains in business activity as the region's construction economy continues to improve. But while most of the engineering and architectural firms that participated in ENR Southeast's annual Top Design Firms survey reported increased revenue for 2014, gains were often modest.

For instance, the group's collective 2014 revenue total of $3.3 billion marked a 10% improvement over last year's survey total of $3 billion. However, much of that increase can be attributed to AECOM's inclusion of new revenue resulting from its 2014 acquisition of URS Corp., which did not participate in the Southeast design firms ranking.

Still, of the 92 firms that participated in both surveys, 67 reported revenue gains in 2014, while 25 posted a decline.

Additional increases in the pace of new projects in 2015 could boost next year's ranking. The recent forecast for the Southeast region from Dodge Data & Analytics—ENR's parent company—predicts a 16% overall gain in the value of new contracts during the current year. That surge could be playing out now.

"We have definitely seen an uptick in work across all of our offices in the Carolinas," says Katherine Peele, principal with LS3P, which ranks as the Southeast's top firm in architectural revenue. "We are expecting around a 15% increase in revenue over last year."

John Lucey, president and CEO of Raleigh-based engineer McKim & Creed, reports a similar pattern across the region and into Texas.

"Current market conditions in our target markets of Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia show higher activity for design projects than in 2014," he says. "We continue to see consistent growth in our markets in the Raleigh-Durham and Wilmington areas in North Carolina and throughout Florida."

In fact, Lucey says McKim & Creed is expecting activity to ramp up this year. "Our projections indicate that our target markets are going to grow above the historical growth rate during 2015-2017."

Sustainability issues will continue to influence owners, adds Peele. "Sustainable design—although not necessarily LEED—continues to be important for our clients," she says.

About the Ranking

ENR Southeast's Top Design Firms ranking lists firms based upon their 2014 design revenue generated from projects located in the four-state region of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. In addition to the main ranking, ENR Southeast has included several breakout rankings, including lists based on state revenue, market sectors and design discipline.

The main chart also includes additional information about each firm, such as their top market sectors, regional executives and their largest Southeast projects to break ground during the past year.