The Miller Hull Partnership, this year’s top firm in sustainability, received near-universal acclaim for its design of the Living Building Challenge (LBC)–certified Bullitt Center, which opened in 2013. A six-story office building with an oversized solar array on the roof, the Bullitt Center set a new standard for net-zero commercial buildings.

But the firm, founded in 1977 by David Miller and the late Robert Hull, is no one-hit wonder. Long before LEED and the LBC, Miller Hull was designing environmentally friendly buildings using passive heating and cooling strategies that the founding architects had discovered during Peace Corps stints in Brazil (Miller) and Afghanistan (Hull).

The Bullitt Center
Brad Kahn via Flickr Creative Commons license The Bullitt Center

Still, the Bullitt Center has had a clear ripple effect. Miller Hull (collaborating with Lord Aeck Sargent) was recently commissioned to design a similar building, now under construction, for Georgia Tech’s Atlanta campus. The 40,000-square-foot Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design, which received top marks from the green project judges, aims to achieve LBC certification in part by employing a dramatic overhanging solar canopy that creates a shaded porch-like space over the building’s west entrance. The biggest challenge, says one of the firm’s partners, Brian Court, AIA, is meeting the LBC’s rigorous standards in Atlanta, with its sweltering heat and humidity. But he’s confident it can be done.

Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design
Courtesy the Miller Hull Partnership in collaboration with Lord Aeck Sargent Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design
View from entry
Courtesy the Miller Hull Partnership in collaboration with Lord Aeck Sargent View from entry

Meanwhile, back in Seattle, the firm recently renovated its own office space—in a converted 1910 warehouse in the city’s Pioneer Square neighborhood—to meet LBC Place, Materials, Beauty, and Equity Petal certifications. Miller Hull is also targeting Petal certification with the remodel of its San Diego-based studio. “We have to walk the walk,” says principal Margaret Sprug. “We need to be able to show our clients what we can do, even in an old warehouse building.”

Miller Hull's renovated Seattle studio

Miller Hull also demonstrated its sustainability chops with its reliance on energy modeling in the early stages of project design and by submitting an energy report in 2017 as part of the AIA’s 2030 Commitment.

Of course, not every client is willing to go the LBC route, but Miller Hull’s focus on sustainability infuses every project. “Even with the smallest project,” Court says, “we can take all the research that’s gone into more complex projects and use it to raise the design to a higher level. All good design should include an environmental sense of mission and responsibility.”

Top 50 Firms in Sustainability

Rank Organization Score
1 The Miller Hull Partnership 100.0
2 Mithun 95.3
3 HOK 95.2
4 HDR Architecture 93.8
5 WRNS Studio 92.9
6 LMN Architects 90.7
7 Lord Aeck Sargent 89.8
8 Bruner/Cott & Associates 88.6
9 Perkins+Will 88.5
10 Brooks+Scarpa 87.9
11 Hennebery Eddy Architects 87.0
12 Opsis Architecture 86.9
13 Lake|Flato 86.4
14 DLR Group 85.7
15 Skidmore, Owings & Merrill 85.2
15 GWWO Architects 85.2
17 Kirksey 85.1
18 Leers Weinzapfel Associates 84.4
19 Touloukian Touloukian 83.0
19 SmithGroup 83.0
21 Studios Architecture 82.9
22 Payette 82.8
23 LPA 82.6
24 Studio Ma 82.2
25 ZGF 82.1
26 William Rawn Associates 82.0
27 CannonDesign 81.7
28 Hacker 81.1
29 HKS 80.6
30 Leddy Maytum Stacy 80.3
31 Sasaki Associates 79.3
32 VMDO Architects 78.5
33 SRG Partnership 78.2
34 Weber Thompson 77.6
35 Ross Barney Architects 77.4
36 Ballinger 77.3
37 Hastings 76.8
38 Richärd+Bauer Architecture 76.3
38 Kaplan Thompson Architects 76.3
40 FXCollaborative 75.8
41 EYP 75.6
41 Archimania 75.6
43 HMC Architects 75.5
44 CBT Architects 75.3
45 Solomon Cordwell Buenz 74.6
45 Eskew+Dumez+Ripple 74.6
47 Architectural Resources Cambridge 73.9
48 Orcutt|Winslow 73.7
49 Ziger/Snead Architects 73.5
50 NAC Architecture 73.4

Sustainability Portfolio Judges

Vivian Loftness, FAIA, is a professor at Carnegie Mellon and the former head of the university’s School of Architecture. She has received the Sacred Tree Award from the U.S. Green Building Council and her work and research has focused on environmental design and sustainability and advanced building systems integration.

Ed Wheeler

Stephanie Carlisle is a principal at KieranTimberlake and author of Embodied Energy and Design (Lars Müller Publishers, 2017). She led the materials database development for Tally, a custom app that calculates the environmental impacts of building material choices.