Roger Swanson, CEO of Anshen + Allen
Photo courtesy Anshen + Allen
Roger Swanson, CEO of Anshen + Allen

Stantec, Canada’s largest architectural firm, announced on Aug. 26 that it has signed a letter of intent to purchase Anshen + Allen, a firm of roughly 200 employees with offices in San Francisco, Columbus, Boston, and London. Weeks earlier, Stantec announced it plans to acquire California-based ECO:LOGIC Engineering. If both sales go through, they will be Stantec’s seventh and eighth acquisitions in 2010, adding to the 70-plus companies it has purchased since 1997.

The recent bids verify that Stantec is homing in on its goal, announced in 1998, to become and remain a top 10 global design firm. Currently, Stantec is ranked 24th with revenues of $1.5 billion, up from 28th in 2009, in Engineering News-Record’s Top 150 Global Design Firms list.

More broadly, Stantec’s purchases show that the merger trend in North America continues. In January of this year, Shore Tilbe Irwin & Partners, a Toronto-based practice, joined Perkins + Will. In March, Seattle-based NBBJ merged with Chan Krieger Sieniewicz of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and California-based WWCOT joined DLR Group. These are just a few recent examples.

“Now that the economy has found its feet again, it’s easier for firms to talk about the future. I think that’s why you’re seeing not just us, but other firms make that decision to buy or sell,” says Jay Averill, a Stantec spokesperson. Averill dismisses the notion that Stantec’s recent buying spree is an effort to take advantage of the economic downturn to snap up smaller firms in peril. “When we look at the infrastructure market as a whole, it is a long-term market. We’re looking further into the future,” he says.

Snapping Up Companies

Since March of this year, Stantec, a publicly traded company, has acquired PCGI of Toronto; TetrEs of Winnipeg, Manitoba; Natural Resources Consulting of Cottage Grove, Wisconsin; WilsonMiller of Naples, Florida; Industry and Energy Associates, LLC of Portland, Maine; and CommArts of Boulder, Colorado.

The Anshen + Allen acquisition should be finalized within a month, says Jenifer Altenhoff, Anshen + Allen’s principal in charge of marketing. Neither firm would disclose the bid price. Stantec’s gross revenue in 2009 was about $1.5 billion (in Canadian dollars). The company is headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta, and has about 10,000 employees and 150 offices.

Founded in 1940 in San Francisco, Anshen + Allen’s focus on healthcare, education, and research aligns with Stantec’s desire to expand its architecture practice in the U.S. “They’re a very well-respected firm, one of the best in the healthcare industry,” says Averill. He believes that the trade-off is equal—Stantec offers Anshen + Allen the partnership of its 150 North American offices and building engineering expertise.

The addition of Anshen + Allen would also add considerably to Stantec’s revenue from architectural design. Currently, Stantec derives only $47 million from architectural design revenue, putting it at 51st on Architectural Record’s Top 250 Firms list. Anshen + Allen ranks 31st on the same list, with $64.2 million in revenue. For comparison, their combined architectural design revenues would have outpaced RTKL, which was ranked number 12 on the Top 250 list this year, with revenues of $97.8 million.

Industry Shift

For Anshen + Allen’s part, the decision to sell was not an effort to stay afloat—three pending projects rolled in last week, according to Altenhoff—but a long-term strategic move. “If we look back over the last decade, there’s really been a shift in the industry,” says Altenhoff. That shift includes a demand for more complex teams, increased globalization, and stiffer competition, she says, adding that the firm wants to work in Canada and Asia. “For us to compete on a global platform, we felt we need to be part of a top 10 or top 20 global design firm,” she says.

Anshen + Allen will also benefit from Stantec’s expertise with public-private partnerships and its sustainability initiatives in Canada, says Altenhoff. The two firms found they could work well together when they partnered on three new LEED-certified buildings for the Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center in San Francisco.

Anshen + Allen has 21 partners, with Roger Swanson, AIA, serving as CEO. All of the firm’s offices will remain open, and leadership will remain the same. There will be no layoffs; in fact, Altenhoff says growth is expected. “They really want us to control our own destiny,” she says. “They expect it from us.” Anshen + Allen will keep its name for an “extended” transitional period before taking the name Stantec.

Editor's Note: This story was updated to reflect that Edmonton is located in Alberta, not Ontario.