The companies ranked on ENR California and Northwest’s 2020 Top Design Firms lists reported strong growth across markets from transportation to water supply. But while most design firms from Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington reported year-over-year growth in 2019, the advent of COVID-19 brings substantial uncertainty and a less-than-rosy outlook for 2020—and beyond.
Regional firms say demand for reliable power, water and other critical infrastructure will continue, but in the new post-pandemic normal, use of EPC contracts and design-build delivery may become imperative. At the same time, artificial intelligence, cloud-based applications and systems and technology will continue to drive quality, safety and speed to market.
Last year, Arup saw significant growth in both California and the Pacific Northwest. “In this climate, wwe anticipate shifting to new ways of working and changing drivers in the property and transportation sector. We have also seen an uptick in science, industry and technology markets, including data centers,” says Andy Howard, Americas chairman at Arup.
Burns & McDonnell says it reacted quickly to slowing market conditions and stalled projects, thanks to nimble teams and resources. “Life as we know it has changed dramatically due to the spread of coronavirus,” says Renita Mollman, the firm’s chief administrative officer. “I think it is too early to predict the long-term financial impacts, but there is no doubt there will be an impact.”
The firm expects continued demand for mission-critical buildings and data centers, drinking water maintenance and wastewater recycling, telecom network and utility infrastructure rehabs and renewable energy sources, says Mark Lichtwardt, senior vice president and general manager in the Pacific Northwest and Mountain States for Burns & McDonnell.
In California, Mollman sees healthy design trends for battery storage, high-voltage direct current, grid modernization, cybersecurity and network integrations as the state continues to invest in renewable infrastructure and electrification.
Al Barkouli, chairman and CEO of Portland, Ore.-based David Evans Enterprises Inc., says the firm’s 2019 revenue rose due to “tremendous growth” in the transportation sector, while other markets also did well. Barkouli says Northwest public-sector markets are holding up relatively well despite some expected slowdowns. “Most clients are facing near-term revenue shortfalls due to COVID-19,” he says.
He anticipates 2020 growth will come mainly from the company’s strong backlog. “Overall system resiliency is becoming more visible as the virus has reminded us all of our vulnerability.”