No man is an island.
And neither is an infrastructure manager struggling to balance internal resources with community expectations.
Thus the importance of the relationship between public works departments, which are for the most part generalists, and for-profit firms that specialize in architecture, engineering, construction (AEC), or any combination thereof. Our third annual survey of the use of AEC firms by public agencies shows that this partnership continues to play a key role in the ability of infrastructure managers to meet the needs of their communities.
In 2006, 86% of respondents turned to these firms to strategize, conceptualize, design, engineer, and/or build projects ranging from water treatment plants and bridges to urban parks. Of the 15% of respondents who did not use an AEC firm, half plan to enlist one in the next six months.
What Departments Want
To learn more about the relationship between public works departments and AEC firms, we gathered data in two ways.
First, we asked the firms themselves about their services and the scope of their work.This year's list features 50 largest firms in terms of revenue generated from public projects. Though not comprehensive (firms that are in the process of being acquired, for example, could not provide information), this chart provides a solid starting point for researching potential partners.
Then we asked PUBLICWORKS readers about their relationship with these firms, and learned that in 2006:
More than half of respondents used AEC firms for design services.
- 17% contracted with firms to build.
- Few sought AEC firms to operate or own these facilities.
- None employed firms to maintain the project once completed.
As for the type of infrastructure that respondents asked AEC firms to work on:
52%—wastewater and storm-water treatment projects
- 49%—road and bridge construction
- 43%—surveying, mapping, and GIS
- 40%—pipeline construction/ rehabilitation
- 29%—watersheds and water resources
- 28%—landscape architecture/ park design
- 26%—water treatment
- 25%—traffic control
- 16%—maintenance of public buildings
- 14%—municipal solid waste
- 11%—asset management
- Less than 10% each—hazardous waste collection and disposal, homeland security, and city vehicle maintenance.