The downturn in the Southeast’s construction economy is definitely hitting some design firms in the four-state region as well, a fact that is apparently reflected in this year’s Southeast Construction Top Design Firms ranking.

This year, we received several notices from firms that they would not be participating in this year’s survey due to a significant downturn in billings. Some of these firms had previously focused extensively on high-rise condominium projects, which are now few and far between. As a result, the overall response rate is down noticeably.

For example, just two years ago, this ranking included 120 architectural and engineering firms working in the magazine’s territory of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Last year, that number dropped to 110, and this year the final ranking numbers 90, or 25% below the total of two years ago.

At the same time, however, the amount of collective billings represented in the ranking is up. (It should be noted that this is consistent with our previous rankings, including the most recently published Top Specialty Contractors.) This year’s Top Design ranking represents nearly $3.8 billion in 2008 design billings, up from the $3.1 billion represented in the ranking we published last year of the top 110 firms. (This year’s $3.8 billion total is just below that of two years ago, which was roughly $3.9 billion.)

The Top Design ranking is based upon company-provided information indicating each firm’s billings figures from the preceding calendar year (2008) for projects performed in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

In addition to the main ranking – which is an all-inclusive listing of both architectural and engineering firms – we’ve also included subcategory rankings that  provide further insights about various design disciplines and market sectors.

The Ranking PBS&J of Tampa was finally knocked off the top spot this year. CH2M Hill of Atlanta resoundingly claimed the No. 1 spot with more than $486.7 million in 2008 design fees from regional projects. The firm did not participate in last year’s ranking.

Placing second was AECOM Technology Corp. of Coral Gables, Fla., which reported roughly $368.7 million in 2008 billings, up from the $202.9 million it reported a year ago, when it placed third.

PBS&J placed third, despite an increase in its design billings from a year ago. For this most recent ranking, PBS&J reported $337.7 million in regional design fees, up from the $317.8 million of a year ago.

Kimley-Horn and Associates, which ranked second last year, fell to fourth. The Raleigh, N.C.-based firm reported $209 million in regional billings, down from the $236.9 million of a year ago.

Another firm that did not participate in last year’s Top Design ranking, Alpharetta, Ga.-based MACTEC, ranked fifth. The company reported $178.8 million in regional design billings from the previous calendar year.

Placing sixth was another firm that’s new to this year’s ranking, Arcadis, which indicated $159.8 million in regional billings. ParsonsBrinckerhoff of Miami experienced a slight dropoff in billings and placed seventh. The firm reported $116.6 million in Southeast billings, down from the previous year’s $138 million.

HNTB of Atlanta fell two spots from a year ago to rank eighth this year, with about $111.3 million in regional design billings. Reynolds, Smith & Hills of Jacksonville, Fla., placed ninth with $104.8 million in billings. And Nashville-based Gresham Smith & Partners rounded out the top ten with about $74.1 million in Southeast billings.

To be included in future surveys, please send an e-mail to Scott Judy, editor, at