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How America’s Top 5 Architecture Firms Are Revolutionizing Green Construction

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Americas top 5 Architecture green construction
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Marina Onokhina

America’s top architecture firms have firmly embedded green building design into the future of infrastructure across the U.S. and the globe. These businesses innovate the field in every capacity, including the ways they run their own firms. For aspiring architectural firms and business leaders, America’s top architects provide a shining example of the confluences between sustainability, workplace productivity, and social progress.

These five firms represent some of the most celebrated and awarded firms in the U.S. Each firm is making a global impact on architecture and green building design and represents the leading edge of design and engineering in architecture. Their recognition by the American Institute of Architects and Architect Magazine stems from their innovative approaches to green building design and their contributions to the field at large.

Today’s architectural community is more committed than ever to green building design, and these firm’s tireless commitment to the USGBC’s LEED Green Building standards is becoming the standard for the industry – over 2.2 million square feet is LEED-certified every day. As leaders in their respective areas of focus, each of these firms drives the next generation of built infrastructure across the Uni.

1. HOK

HOK is the largest architecture-engineering firm in the United States and winner of countless design, engineering, and architecture awards across the globe. In 2017, HOK ranked as the number one architecture-engineering firm in Architectural Record’s Top 300 and number one in Engineering News-Record’s Top 500.

HOK’s most famous green building projects include New York’s LaGuardia Airport Central Terminal B, the LG Science Park complex, and the Mercedes-Benz Stadium—North America’s first LEED-Platinum sports arena. HOK stands out as a top architectural firm for their leadership in architectural research, which guides their innovative approaches to green building design. HOK embeds current and future trends in business and workplace efficiency, organizational theory, and sustainability into every project. HOK is pioneering collaborative office designs that promote innovation and growth.

2. Lake|Flato

Lake|Flato is a national leader in eco-conservation projects. It’s the recipient of over 270 distinguished design awards, including the American Institute of Architects Architecture Firm Award and ten Top Ten Green Project Awards from the AIA Committee on the Environment.

Lake|Flato’s design ethos hinges on sustainable building designs that work in tandem with the natural world. The firm specializes in buildings that harmonize with their natural environments, like the Naples Botanical Garden Visitor Center and the Dixon Water Foundation Josey Pavilion, winner of the AIA Committee on the Environment’s Top Ten Project Award.

3. Miller Hull

The Miller Hull partnership has won an AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) Top Ten award every two to three years since 1998, making them one of the most consistently recognized firms in the U.S. Their roots go back even further; cofounders Robert Hull and David Miller began designing solar buildings in the 1980s.

Miller Hull’s iconic Pike Place Market project in downtown Seattle, one of the firm’s most recent award-winning designs, turned a parking lot into a vibrant cultural hotspot, a revitalization of a lost urban space. Their commitments to social improvement through innovative architecture is no better emblemized than in their Gohar Khatoon Girls’ School project in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. Their sustainable design helps the school operate on little to no heating fuel or electricity, providing an invaluable contribution to the inclusion of women and girls in Afghan society.

4. BNIM

BNIM is a leader in workplace building design, focusing on human performance as a metric of building success. Their projects have garnered numerous awards, including two Architect’s Newspaper 2017 Best of Design awards for their Princeton University Lewis Center for the Arts building and their 10th and Wyandotte Parking Garage project.

BNIM is also a national leader in green building design. It helped the U.S. Green Building Council further develop the LEED Rating System, the standard for green architecture throughout the US. BNIM’s people-first designs prioritize natural light, aesthetics, energy efficiency, and human performance; the firm regularly features improvements in work-related tasks as testaments to their designs.

5. LMS Architecture

LMSA, a unique firm that blends education with practice, is last year’s National AIA Architecture Firm Award winner. Their diverse portfolio includes everything from adaptive reuse of historic buildings to affordable housing projects that blend social equity, historic preservation, and cutting-edge sustainable design. The firm has been recognized with over 140 design awards.

LMSA makes significant contributions to the field of architecture by teaching the next generation of thought leaders and innovators. This small firm utilizes an open office environment often reflected in their workplace designs. Their most celebrated buildings, like lead architect William Leddy’s LEED Platinum Nueva School at Bay Meadows, emphasize their unique approach to uplifting public and private spaces.

What Common Threads Make These Firms Exceptional?

Many firms in the U.S. regularly achieve LEED Platinum certifications on building designs, but the firms that design transformative, award-winning spaces for public and private use go beyond building specifications, tapping at the emotional elements of workspaces, schools, and public buildings.

Human-Focused Performance Metrics

These top firms universally share a commitment to spaces that improve or enhance the lives of their occupants. From BNIM’s human performance benchmarks in building design to HOK’s collaborative office spaces, these firms recognize that an office space should support its workforce with the technology, tools and environments that maximize productivity. Spaces that inspire and nurture occupants have the capacity to dramatically change the landscape of their neighborhoods.

Better Work Environments

These firms also share a collaborative approach to organization within their own businesses. LMSA’s educational focus and Miller Hull’s incorporation of regular staff retreats speak to a more holistic, human-centric work environment, a trend that repeats in the leading businesses and companies it designs buildings for. If there’s a lesson to be learned from these architectural firms, it’s that office buildings should focus on the aspects of design that nurture and inspire creativity and collaboration.

Evaluation and Internal Review

At these top firms, projects never end when the ribbons are cut. These firms understand the importance of iterative design processes, where evaluation plays a key role in building off successful projects. BNIM conducts regular performance reviews of buildings before and after construction to gauge the impacts of their designs, and Lake|Flato’s Post-Occupancy Evaluations allow for continuous improvement to designs.

Hands-On Management

Each of these firms showcases a more thoughtful approach to management practices where leaders within each company work alongside other staff to see a project through to completion. The active and involved managers at these firms break down hierarchies and play a central role in each firm’s design process. Miller Hull’s founders have played a central role in the firm’s design process for over 40 years, and Lake|Flato’s managers work with every stakeholder and project team member to ensure the vision of their clients is fully met.

The benefits of thoughtful, human-centric working environments speak for themselves. These practices help these firms consistently rank at the top of their field, decade after decade. It should come as no surprise that these working environments influence the designs of so many top architecture firms. These five show that sustainable building design can transcend physical performance metrics, encompassing the human implications of the built environment.

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