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Top Architecture Firms for Sustainable Design in the US

March 4th, 2022 | 4 min. read

Top Architecture Firms for Sustainable Design in the US

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Sustainability is one of the architecture industry’s top priorities. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2030 Commitment encourages designers to share energy performance data with AIA, helping the entire industry work toward a zero-carbon future.

Achieving this goal requires collective action, which is why we are highlighting firms that are driving the industry forward. This article will discuss some of the top architecture firms for sustainable design in the US. 

We ranked these firms on three criteria:  

  1. Number of AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) Top Ten Awards received 
  2. Number of Living Buildings designed 
  3. Their commitment to research and innovation 

These criteria provide a baseline measure of rigor and innovation. The COTE Top Ten Award is the industry’s highest award for sustainable design excellence, and the Living Building Challenge is the industry’s most rigorous third-party green building rating system.  

After reading, you will have a better understanding of the architecture industry and the important players in the world of sustainable design. 

Top Architecture Firms for Sustainable Design 

1. Miller Hull Partnership 

Miller Hull Partnership is a national architecture firm located in Seattle, WA and San Diego, CA. Sustainability has been key to the firm’s identity since its founding in 1977. Today, Miller Hull boasts ten COTE Top Ten Awards and has completed five Living Buildings, including the Bullitt Center in Seattle. Its offices are also Living Building Petal certified. 

In 2021, Miller Hull took their sustainability efforts a step further by launching EMission Zero, an initiative that seeks to eliminate greenhouse gasses from all the buildings they design. 

2. Lake Flato 

Since 1984, Lake Flato has taken a place-based approach to architecture. According to their website, the Texas-based firm “strives to create restorative environments that reduce carbon emissions and enhance our understanding and relationship to the natural world.” 

This approach has led to numerous accolades—including 13 COTE Top Ten Awards. The firm has also designed the first Living Building in the State of Texas—the Betty & Clint Josey Pavilion. 

3. BNIM 

BNIM is a full-service architecture firm located in Kansas City, MO, San Diego, CA, and Des Moines, IA. The firm’s commitment to sustainability has been instrumental in the development of green building rating systems like Living Building Challenge and LEED. To date, they have earned 11 COTE Top Ten Awards and completed a fully certified Living Building—the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, NY. 

4. Perkins + Will  

Perkins + Will was founded in Chicago, IL in 1936 and has since grown to 24 global offices. The firm has earned praise for its approach to material health and its advocacy in eliminating toxicity. In addition, Perkins + Will has earned five COTE Top Ten Awards and has completed Petal-Certified Living Building projects. 

5. Payette 

Located in Boston, MA, Payette is nationally recognized for its data-driven approach to sustainable design. Payette’s Building Science Group is integrated into the design process, an innovative approach that helped the firm earn AIA’s Firm of the Year Award in 2019.  

Since 2010, 75% of Payette’s projects have been LEED-certified, and they have earned five COTE Top Ten Awards. Their commitment to research helps the entire industry innovate.   

6. ZGF 

ZGF was founded in 1942 in Portland, OR. Since then, it has grown to six offices across North America. In terms of sustainable design, ZGF is known for championing novel approaches on a grand scale, like designing California’s largest net-zero facility of its kind. The firm has received the COTE Top Ten Award numerous times and is currently working on Portland’s first certified Living Building. 

7. Gensler 

Gensler is a global design firm founded in 1965. The firm is known for its research on workplace design. When it comes to sustainability, Gensler takes a systems-based approach to understand the client’s context and challenges. 

Gensler’s approach has led to industry praise. In 2020, Gensler was the first firm to win three COTE Top 10 Awards in a year. The firm has also designed Living Building Petal certified projects, including Etsy’s headquarters in New York, NY.  

Learn More About Sustainable Design 

The built environment is responsible for nearly 40% of all carbon emissions. Now more than ever, it’s important for architects to focus on energy efficiency, health and wellbeing, and resiliency. These innovative firms help the industry work toward the collective goal of a zero-carbon world. 

For building owners, sustainable design can provide a sizable return on investment. High-performance design can help reduce long-term costs of building ownership, increase your market value, and improve workplace productivity. 

Learn more about sustainable design by reading our guide to green building rating systems and long-term personnel costs.