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CURRENTS:
Sustainability Holds Steady

Despite drops in overall 2009 revenues, profits from green projects continue to grow.

November 2010

By Michele Russo

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Design firms were hard hit in 2009 by the recession. Total billings of the largest 500 design firms dropped by almost 12 percent from 2008 to 2009. The top green design firms fared similarly in terms of overall work. These top green firms are those that bring in the largest revenues from LEED and other certified green projects as reported to Engineering News-Record magazine in the annual Green Market survey. Firms are instructed to include only revenues from projects registered under a third-party certified green building ratings program.

But there is good news—and it’s shaded green. Despite the overall downturn, more money was earned from green projects. Revenues from these coming from the top green design firms increased by 16.8 percent, going from $2.85 billion in 2008 to $3.33 billion in 2009. For the top 10 who bring in just over half of the total green project revenues, the growth of green revenue was even more astounding at 42 percent.

Some top green firms, like URS and AECOM, are among the largest of design firms, and though sustainable design is a small percentage of their overall work, it brings in comparatively high revenues. Others, like Fentress Architects, NBBJ, and Perkins+Will, are more specialized in green projects, and actually gained market share.

The biggest growth came from government offices and schools, while revenues from green retail, healthcare and hotel projects dropped—consistent with overall trends. Government spending has helped to lessen the blow of the recession. And for commercial office projects, their larger share and growth may be due to the fact that projects that did go to start tended to be green—and higher in value.

Michele A. Russo is the director of green content and research at McGraw-Hill Construction.

Top 25 Green Design Firms
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This article appeared in the November 2010 print issue of GreenSource Magazine.

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