The 2nd Annual Architect 50 is based on data submitted from 161 firms. Most of these firms were invited to participate, although an ad running in the print edition invited firms to request an entry form from the editors. The first wave of invitations went out on Jan. 6, 2010; the cut-off for processing was March 12, 2010. Altogether, more than 230 official entry forms were sent out, 172 were received, and 161 were validated for the research. (Eleven were disqualified or declined to participate.) Third-party market research firm Karlin Associates LLC compiled the data.

Notes on scoring methodology
The 2010 Architect 50 was comprised of three variables, each subject to its own weighting procedure: awards; revenue per employee; and sustainable practices. To come up with the total score, the score for each variable was added together.

Individual awards were categorized and reviewed by ARCHITECT editors. Award categories were assigned to one of 12 award groups, and each group was assigned a weight. Weights were allocated based on editors’ judgment of relative value of award and reliability of vetting category. Additional weights were applied for two reasons: to offset “large firm bias” (on the principle that, in general, large firms have more resources to enter awards programs); and to adjust weight of category (so that a very prestigious award earns a substantially higher score than, say, an award from a local publication).

Awards that were considered include, but are not limited to, AIA national, state, and component awards. Also considered were other awards granted by the Urban Land Institute (e.g. Awards for Excellence), the Congress for New Urbanism, the Society of College and University Planners, GSA Design Awards, and awards granted by trade and industry groups, whether national, regional, or local. And of course, ARCHITECT’s own P/A and R+D awards. The top awards score was set to equal 400.

Revenue per employee (RPE)
On the Architect 50 entry form, respondents indicated ranges for their firm size and 2009 revenue (we asked for gross revenue rather than net): e.g., $1 to $2.4 million and 10 to 19 employees. RPE was calculated by taking the midpoints of the respective revenue and employee ranges and dividing. The top RPE score was set to 600 so that 98 percent of the distribution fell in the 400 or lower range.

Sustainable practices
The sustainability variable consists of two components: LEED and Green Culture. We asked firms to indicate the percentage of projects both under way and completed in 2009 that were LEED certified or have certification pending. We also asked firms to indicate the percentage of total staff (not just professional staff) who are LEED accredited professionals.

On the Green Culture measure, firms were required to answer “yes” or “no” as to whether they followed six different green practices (example: building or renovating the firm’s own office to LEED standard or higher). Both the LEED and Green Culture components carried individual perfect scores of 200; these were added together unweighted.