Everybody loves to hate the annual Top 250 Firms list, where we rank 250 firms according their revenues from the previous year. To repeat the disclaimers I give every year: Architectural Record does not collect this information: The firms report it to our sister publication, Engineering News Record, on surveys it administers for its yearly Top Design Firms special issue. No, revenue does not have anything to do with design quaiity. And finally, no, my young friends, revenue does not equal profit.
Now that we've got that out of the way, here's the news, and it's not good.
As a group, the 250 firms on the list earned a total of $10.2B in 2009, that's $2B less than they did in 2008. This includes domestic and international revenue.
Domestic work took the biggest hit last year. For all 250 firms combined it declined 19.6 percent last year, from $10.2B in 2008 to $8.2B.
By comparison, international work is only down about 13 percent, declining from $2.3B to $2.0B. I know, I know: $300M isn't chicken feed.
The 25 firms that appear at the top of the list earned $5.1B, or about 50 percent of all the Top 250 firm's revenue. That proportion seems remarkably consistent year after year, so keep it in mind, it's a good rule of thumb.
International work has kept the top 25 firms from experiencing financial disaster (or depending on how you look at it, a far greater disaster than they did experience). Last year 30 percent of their revenue came from work beyond our borders.
International work has been a a source of phenomenal growth for firms. In 2005 no firm made over $100M from international work. Last year there were six.
AECOM is the Big Gorilla. They reported $695.1M in total revenue last year, of which $417.1M was from international work. That's $146M more than Gensler, which is number two on the list.
You can see my article along with the entire list here: "Income Belly Flops, Firms Swim for Work Offshore," (and check out how your competition did last year). Some of the figures I've mentioned here, and more, can be seen in the slide show on that page.
As far as I know no one else anywhere collects this data, and my hat's off to ENR's Gary Tulacz and Virgilio Mendoza who do this survey and many others every year.
Gary started giving me data on the Top 150 firms in 2005, and he has expanded the questions on our behalf over the years, so we now know such things as how much of a firm's revenue comes from international work. We added 100 additional firms to make it a top 250 list in 2007.