New York 2024 Design Firm of the Year: Boosting Employees, Serving Communities

New York 2024 Design Firm of the Year: Boosting Employees, Serving Communities

Expansive expertise and core values that emphasize staff growth and local impact prove a powerful combination for H2M, ENR New York’s Design Firm of the Year

Written by L.L. Poirier

Station Yards is a mixed-use community built around the Ronkonkoma, N.Y.,
station of the Long Island Rail Road. It will feature 1,500 residential units,
200,000 sq ft of retail space, 300,000 sq ft of office space and a 60,000-sq-ft hotel.
Photo courtesy of H2M

Over the last 91 years, H2M architects + engineers has steadily expanded across the tristate area from its original Long Island location. That growth is accelerating, as the full-service engineering firm has opened four new offices within the last year alone to bring its total to 15. Based in Melville, N.Y., H2M’s roots in the region run deep, having served as engineer-of-record on projects and programs for more than 30 public water and sewer districts—with some of those relationships existing for 70 years or more.

For its steadfast expansion, commitment to employees and communities, and lasting project impacts, ENR New York has named H2M its 2024 Design Firm of the Year.


H2M is working with TRITEC Real Estate Co. on Station Yards in Ronkonkoma, N.Y.
Photo courtesy of TRITEC


Diversify to Thrive

H2M was on a “fantastic growth trajectory until the pandemic hit,” says Richard Humann, president and CEO. After plateauing in 2020, it was not until 2023 that the firm finally returned to its pre-pandemic track, he says.

During the last three years, H2M revenue has grown by 27% to $105 million in 2023, placing the firm at No. 21 on this year’s ENR New York Top Design Firms list.

Company leadership credits the rise to company strength in water, wastewater, education and energy sectors. While that was largely organic growth to further bolster its position in key markets, H2M recently completed two acquisitions.

In 2023, the firm purchased Crew Engineers, which specializes in water, wastewater, environmental and civil practices. In early 2024, it also acquired Schneider Engineering, which added civil engineering expertise with a focus on traffic engineering, accident reconstruction and forensic analysis.

“We’re multidisciplined, so there’s pretty much no engineering discipline needed on a project that H2M doesn’t have,” Humann says. “When we acquire these smaller companies that are very focused in the disciplines they offer, we can come in with the horsepower to optimize the work and client relationships.”

Market diversity has been a strength for H2M, playing a significant role in carrying the firm through the pandemic. Its top three markets are water/wastewater, K-12/higher education and private development/real estate. It also works in the energy utility, municipal and other public sector markets at the city, state and federal levels. The firm also specializes in forensic engineering, working with major insurance companies to perform diagnostics on failures, which has proven to be a solid niche.

New markets include renewable energy—solar, offshore wind and energy storage—as well as health care, in both system consolidation and patient delivery services. All of these active markets—plus ample federal and state funding flowing into water quality, energy and infrastructure—have translated into plentiful opportunities.

“When some of our markets are maybe struggling a bit, we historically have always had others that are thriving,” Humann adds. “It has allowed us to effectively navigate things like the pandemic, and the effect of that is not having to worry about laying off staff or contracting. So that’s definitely a foundational piece to our success.”

Other lessons learned during the pandemic have continued for the firm. Embracing remote work and flexibility have provided a huge boost, allowing for out-of-state hires to hone needed skills and supporting retention of employees who have left the New York area.

H2M’s diversity in expertise, in addition to markets, has maintained clients such as Bethpage Water District in Bethpage, N.Y., for the last 90 years.

“We use them because of all the issues we have with the groundwater plume that is impacting our supply wells,” says Michael J. Boufis, superintendent at Bethpage, who has worked with the firm for more than 15 years.

The company is “definitely in the forefront of emerging technologies and advanced designs,” he says. With its multiple discipline expertise, the company is like a one-stop shop for an entire project, Boulis adds.


H2M’s Top Three Projects of 2023

Station Yards, Ronkonkoma, N.Y.

At $1.2 billion, the project scope includes site planning, drainage, green infrastructure design, water supply and sewer improvements.

Patchogue River Sewer, Patchogue, N.Y.

The firm is helping lead the transition of 300 homes from septic systems to a new low-pressure sewer system in this $30-million effort.

California Avenue School, Uniondale, N.Y.

With a $12-million investment, this project includes an addition, interior renovations and site improvements.


On the West Branch Acres water treatment plant upgrade, H2M installed a temporary storage tank
before replacing an old one and adding a chemical treatment building and PFAS treatment system.
Photo courtesy of H2M


Building Impacts

H2M’s water-wastewater division has grown significantly during senior project engineer Jessica Alves’s nearly decade-long tenure. “H2M laid a good foundation for emerging contaminants on Long Island and that spread throughout the tristate area—even in Florida, because we have a couple jobs there too,” she says. “The work we’ve done speaks volumes, and word spreads. Even the local health department has given clients my number.”

Across its service lines, H2M completed about 3,393 projects in 2023. Current work includes ongoing treatment for 1,4-dioxane and other volatile organic compounds at Bethpage Water District using an advanced oxidation process that combines hydrogen peroxide and ultraviolet light.

This work follows a larger $18-million project for which H2M upgraded the district’s Park Lane/Plant 6 site. The firm led all engineering and design and performed construction administration and inspection services, Boufis says. Crews completed this four-year project in just two-and-a-half years through the middle of the pandemic.

Another longtime client is Hicksville Water District in Hicksville, N.Y., which has collaborated with H2M for more than 50 years.

“We’ve been dealing with some very unprecedented times. We have new regulations for emerging contaminants—the compliance timeline is tight, but failure is not an option,” says Paul J. Granger, district superintendent. “What sets H2M apart is its ability to serve and commitment to the project.”

Hicksville has about $70 million worth of construction planned over the next five years, with three projects in construction now, significant for a district that has a $12-million budget and 10 facilities, he adds.

H2M balances the load with multiple project managers who aim to provide continuity and ensure projects continue in the right direction, he says. “You’ve got full support top to bottom. It’s really [the firm’s] down to earth approach,” Granger says. The staff builds “that trust factor to be able to maintain these long relationships, particularly on the water side.”

But it’s not just on large projects that H2M is leaving a mark. A recent smaller job, the West Branch Acres water treatment plant upgrade in Carmel, N.Y., gave Alves and her team the chance to improve water quality for a small community. “It’s a little water system that needed a lot of repair—there were a lot of OSHA violations and mismatched pipe materials all over the place,” she recalls.

To repair such a dilapidated system—situated on a hill with numerous rock outcroppings—H2M had to construct a new chemical treatment facility, a treatment plant for PFAS contaminants and a storage tank, navigating placement in phases.

“Now everything is up and running and approved by the health department. We couldn’t be offline for more than a couple of hours because that’s all the storage tank could provide,” Alves explains. “We really had to work with the town and neighbors because this property was almost in some people’s backyards. It posed a lot of challenges, even though the project served only 80 homes.”


Bethpage Water District’s interim advanced oxidation process system at
Plant 6 enhanced the facility’s ability to treat emerging contaminants.
Photo courtesy of H2M


Elevating Employees

Along with its ongoing expansion efforts and plentiful project portfolio, one of H2M’s top priorities is its employees’ professional development and empowerment, according to CEO Humann.

“I think a lot of firms do not provide the space and the opportunity to their younger people and their emerging leaders to build their own value,” he says. “Invest in your people, support them and try to give them as much opportunity as they’re willing to take.”

Development efforts include supporting licensing and access to professional memberships, tuition assistance and training for leadership and supervisory roles. “We’re going to continue to help them increase their own value and hope that as an organization we’re doing the best we can to have them see their careers here,” says Humann, who just marked his 36th year with H2M.

Beyond the project opportunities, Alves says the workplace, values and culture make H2M a fantastic place to work. Relatively early in her career, she already is a chair of the Westchester Water Works Conference held in Westchester County, N.Y., and serves in leadership positions at the New York state chapter of the American Water Works Association. H2M’s support provided Alves with the flexibility to pursue those opportunities.

“If you’re not a growing organization, you can’t create enough pathways for people like [Alves], you just can’t—but you have an obligation to,” Humann says. “We’ve got this great history, this great legacy and work on these great projects. But it’s always going to be about our people.”

In addition to developing staff and serving clients, H2M is deeply dedicated to its local communities. In 2023, the company donated about $300,000 along with hundreds of volunteer hours to more than 30 charities. It’s not typically the call of leadership that generates these opportunities. Alves points to a recent event she suggested: a dog walk for Westchester SPCA. “I think it really speaks to our core values of just bettering and serving communities,” she says.


War for Talent

With such deep expertise and an extensive portfolio, H2M is seeing more project awards than ever. “So now in a market where I felt we would win one-third of the time, I feel like we’re winning 80% of the time,” Humann says.

But that workload also demands more skilled staff. H2M has 550 employees, with a goal to hire 115 more this year. “Not only do we have to be fully committed to engaging our existing talent to have them stay and see their future here, but we also have to be even more innovative in how we recruit and bring in new talent,” Humann says. “We can have the greatest growth potential in the world, but you can’t achieve it without the people.”

Check out the article published on ENR’s website HERE

Learn More About H2M architects + engineers’ Most Notable Awards