The Largest Firms. The Giants. The Top 100, 200, 500. If you’re a regular follower of architectural media, you’re no stranger to their ever-proliferating firm rankings—rankings that are usually based on the size of a workforce or on annual revenue. Why would Architect throw its hat into this already crowded ring?

Simply put, because size is just one, not-terribly-revealing measure of an architecture firm. We designed the Architect 50 quite simply to promote a more well-rounded definition of success. The criteria for inclusion comprise a trifecta of critical goals for every practice: profitability, sustainability, and design quality.

A cynic might say that, by scoring firms based in part on profitability (i.e., revenue per number of employees), we reward scrooges who run their offices like sweatshops. Au contraire: We see profitability as an essential counterweight to the “big firms” tilt of most rankings, a way to recognize practices of any size whose good works rest on a bedrock of financial health. That’s no small feat in these economically troubled times.

Is it possible to excel in all three categories, to make money by designing beautiful, green buildings? Yes, as you’ll see from the scores in our lists of 1–10, 11–30, and 31–49. (A three-way tie prevented us from ending with a perfect 5-0.) However, we also rank the top 10 scorers in each individual category. There’s not much overlap among them, meaning that a perfect score is not yet in sight.

Maybe next year. Maybe your firm?