KC engineering firms surpass some big construction companies as general contractors

The top five general contractors in Kansas City are driving revenue and leading the industry by being engineering firms.

KC engineering firms surpass some big construction companies as general contractors

Three of the five top firms on the list of Kansas City general contractors aren’t what are traditionally considered construction companies.

Kiewit Corp. Burns & McDonnell, and Black & Veatch are usually ranked high for engineering services in local billings. This is especially true in the Kansas City area. The three firms are now beginning to surpass construction firms in the role of general contractors.

Construction companies such as JE Dunn Construction McCownGordon Construction, and Turner Construction Co. compete with design firms that offer a one-stop shop approach.

Greg Carlson is the senior vice president for construction at Burns & McDonnell. It's not surprising that design-build is now the preferred delivery method. A decade ago, it was almost considered an alternative.

Carlson stated that about half of the construction is now delivered using design-build or engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC), models. Carlson stated that companies such as Burns & McDonnell, are uniquely qualified to deliver their products with in-house staff. Carlson said that companies like Burns & McDonnell are uniquely qualified to deliver products using in-house employees.

Companies that use a business model such as design-build, EPC or EPC can complete projects quickly and efficiently. Carlson says that they don't have to worry about multiple contracts, companies and bids.

Black & Veatch, which has been in business for over 100 years, is a leader in the construction industry. However, the company will partner with competitors on certain projects, depending on their nature. Black & Veatch will also compete with other construction companies, according to BV Operations President Barry Clegg.

Clegg stated that 'our roots are in engineering and that is what I think we offer our clients'. We know engineering well. We're leading the way in this area, but also offering a full range of solutions for our clients, including engineering, supply chains, construction start-up, and delivering the entire project. Our clients are attracted to our engineering expertise, but also know us as a construction company.

This way of doing things will continue to push towards No. Carlson stated. It is faster and there's a better speed to market.

Carlson stated that Burns & McDonnell is blurring the lines between designers and construction professionals.

He said: 'We do not finish the design, and we just throw it to the building group, or another contractor.' We all work together.

Now, engineers are working on the job site and doing more than just traditional design. Engineers are involved from the beginning of the project, utilizing a wider skill set for a longer period.

Clegg explained that Black & Veatch also uses cross-training to increase sales.

Clegg stated that 'we are graduating people and elevating them to the next step in their careers much faster than I would say traditionally because there is such an urgent need for projects for our client and the volume of work is so different from what we have had in previous years'.

This volume is huge. He said that Black & Veatch currently has over 1,000 requisitions across the board. To complete these projects, the company will require several thousand skilled workers.

Clegg stated that the situation is a challenge. Everyone is facing the same problem in terms of a shortage of workers, whether it's in engineering, construction, or crafts. I'd say yes too, but there's a greater challenge today than ever before.

Black & Veatch billed for the first ever time in its history more engineering hours than construction hours. This trend is likely to continue.

Burns & McDonnell, meanwhile, is also busy and shows no signs of slowing down. Carlson stated that the firm's construction revenue has risen from $2 billion to over $4 billion dollars in just a few years. This year, the revenue will be close to $5 billion.