It is a challenging time for the global environmental consulting and wider support services sector. However, the Nordic region appears to be bucking this trend somewhat and certainly seems to have avoided the doldrums suffered elsewhere in Western Europe over the last few years. Identified by the Swedish Federation of Consulting Engineers and Architects in its annual sector review as the number-one consultancy provider in its native Norwegian market (Environment Analyst 16-Feb-15), Norconsult is one firm that has continued on a strong growth trajectory whilst many of its European counterparts have been struggling.
Describing itself as “Norway’s largest and one of the leading multidisciplinary consultancy firms in the Nordic region,” Norconsult’s latest annual report states that fiscal 2013 was “another record year” for the firm, with gross operating revenues of NOK 3.6 billion ($481 million), up 12% on the previous year. In just four years, the firm has seen its turnover grow by 50% from just shy of NOK 2.3 billion ($308 million) in 2010. Operating profit before tax in 2013 reached NOK 308 million ($41 million), whilst the operating margin stood at 8.6%, down slightly on 9.1% in 2012.
Although the final financials for 2014 are not yet available, preliminary results for last year put revenue at NOK 3.8 billion ($510 million), Norconsult told Environment Analyst, up a further 6% year-on-year. And growth hasn’t been limited to the top line, with staff numbers at the employee-owned firm also showing a strong upward trend in past four years, rising from 1,800 in 2010 to 2,700 staff at the start of 2014.
Based in Sandvika near Oslo, the firm was founded in 1928 under the name Ingeniør A B Berdal. Initially renamed Berdal Strømme in 1986, the entity adopted the Norconsult banner in 1998. Its footprint has grown steadily across the Nordic region and into selected markets further afield. The first projects abroad were undertaken in the 1950s when the group was a part of the Norwegian Engineering Export Organization (NORENO).
At the start of 2014, the firm was operating 49 offices across its home region (Norway, Sweden and Denmark), in addition to a further 32 offices internationally, with subsidiaries located in southern Africa (South Africa, Mozambique), South East Asia (the Philippines, Laos, Thailand and Malaysia) and South America (Peru and Chile). International project work has been focused primarily on renewable energy, hydropower and power systems development. Currently just 5.5% of Norconsult’s turnover is generated from business outside the Nordic countries, with projects undertaken in over 150 countries to date.
Norconsult provides the full spectrum of planning and consultancy services including: feasibility studies, engineering, bid documents preparation, bid evaluation, project management, and construction supervision. These are organised into nine business areas – buildings and property, energy, industry, environment, oil and gas, planning, transport, risk management and water – to serve a range of clients including private investors, governments, local authorities, consortia and major international organisations.
Enviro consulting: a modest but growing, integrated element
The firm’s environment and risk management division, headed up in Norway by Janicke Poulsen Garmann, offers consulting expertise across the following disciplines: acoustics/noise; acute pollution; waste and waste management; water, ground and sediment pollution; environmental monitoring and consulting; hydrogeology; climate adaptation and climate change; air pollution and odours; environmental mapping and remediation of buildings. Divisional revenue in 2013 was up by 10% year-on-year, whilst preliminary results point to 6% growth in 2014.
Norconsult currently boasts an 80-strong contingent of environmental consultants, of which 60 are located in Norway and a further 20 in Sweden. The firm estimates that environmental consulting activities generated revenue of NOK 100 million ($16 million) in 2014, the bulk of which is related to contaminated land, acoustics, hydrogeology, the marine environment and buildings assessments. By client area, EC revenues are derived roughly equally between the public sector and private sector.
However the firm’s EC services are not restricted to the environment division along, but rather utilised across all the main business areas, and particularly so within the transport, buildings and property, energy, industry, water, and oil and gas lines, in order of importance. Norconsult explained: “This means that our environmental consultants mainly work with securing environmental qualities in projects with resources from all the other disciplines in Norconsult,” leaving a minority of projects “purely” within the environmental business area.
The company highlights a number of recent projects undertaken through the environment division in the domestic market, including compilation of an air quality map for the Drammen local authority which covers an area encompassing 150,000 inhabitants in Eastern Norway. Norconsult also carried out a pre-feasibility study, pilot project and detailed project planning (including environmental consultancy services) for all phases for the Midgard Serpent Oslo Water and Sewage Works, one of Norway’s largest waste water treatment projects. The work on Midgard Serpent included the preparation of action plans for polluted ground, environmental follow-up plans, environmental risk analyses, dredging permits, contact with local authorities and facility monitoring.
Other key environmental consulting clients serviced in Norway include: the Norwegian Public Roads Administration (Statens vegvesen); Avinor AS, a state-owned limited company responsible for the majority of Norway’s civil airports; the Norwegian National Rail Administration (Jernbaneverket); the Norwegian Directorate of Public Construction and Property (Statsbygg); and the Norwegian Defence Estates Agency (Forsvarsbygg). Also on the client list are construction companies, property development firms and industrial site owners.
Further afield, recent projects have included a feasibility study for the proposed 100-150 MW Bawgata River hydropower plant on behalf of the Ministry of Electric Power in Myanmar (Environment Analyst 09-Jan-15) and preparation of the feasibility report and bidding documents for Thaton Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) power plant.
Also in Myanmar, it undertook a number of environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) studies during 2014 in conjunction with the locally-based National Engineering & Planning Services organisation, covering POL (petroleum, oil and lubricants) storage, port and wharf facilities, and integrated agriculture processing facilities at Myanmar’s Thilawa Special Economic Zone – the first such economic zone to be built in the country, located on the outskirts of capital city Yangon and due to come into operation during 2015.
The firm is clear on its objectives going forward, that is “to generate stronger growth and results in order to confirm Norconsult’s position on the international consultancy stage in particular”. In terms of its environmental division, the group is planning to hire additional EC staff across several of its Norwegian offices, from where its national and international EC activities are managed, in line with increased demand for environmental input on its projects.
Under the leadership of CEO Per Kristian Jacobsen – who assumed the position in 2013 having served eight years as chairman prior to that – Norconsult is due to release its financial results for 2014 at the end of May.
Source: Environment Analyst