ARCHITECT advertised the ARCHITECT 50 program in print and online, and also sent direct invitations to firms that either requested entry forms or that had been invited to participate in previous years. In all, 124 firms qualified. Data was from the 2014 fiscal year and was self-reported. Projects completed or in progress during the calendar year were included. Data was checked for consistency, and outliers were fact-checked. Karlin Associates LLC, a third-party research firm based in New York City, compiled the ranking and assured the confidentiality of the data.

The ARCHITECT 50 ranking is based on scores in three separate categories, with data weighted as follows:


40% Net revenue per employee 

20% Profitability (positive change in net revenue from 2013)
16% Business practices, including the percentage of repeat clients, percentage of women and minority designers, and voluntary staff turnover rate 
24% Employee benefits, including insurance, ARE benefits, stock options, and other fringe benefits


22% Participation in the AIA’s 2030 Commitment program and percentage of the gross square footage of projects completed between 2011 and 2013 that were verified as meeting 2030 targets

38% Energy and water metrics: the percentage of gross square footage of a firm’s projects that pursued a potable water reduction beyond what was mandated by code, that incorporated energy modeling or daylighting studies, that included features of resilient design, or that were designed using performance-based contracts. Credit was also given for the percentage of projects completed between 2012 and 2013, on a gross-square-footage basis, for which energy data was collected and verified as having met the project goals
20% The percentage of a firm’s employees with LEED AP or Green Associate credentials
20% A score for the green project that best demonstrated a firm’s commitment to sustainability (scoring by architect editors)


80% A design portfolio, scored individually by three judges whose numbers were combined to create an overall score
5% Licensure, as measured by the percentage of designers licensed in their respective fields and the average percentage increase in salary upon licensure

5% Pro bono work, as measured by participation in Public Architecture’s 1% program and the percentage of billable hours dedicated to pro bono
5% Design awards, including awards issued by architect, the AIA, ASLA, and other prominent institutions

5% Research, as measured by the percentage of profits invested in it and its scope and significance 

The weight assigned to each data point was formulated after consulting with industry experts. After the scores were tabulated in each of the three categories, they were rescaled. The top ranking firm in each of the three categories was assigned a score of 100. The rest of the firms’ scores in each of the three categories then were recalculated as a percentage of the top score. Finally, a firm’s scores in each of the three categories were added together to create the overall ranking. Those scores were also normalized, with the top firm given an overall total of 300, and all the other firms’ scores calculated as a percentage of the top score. Each firm’s performance was calculated relative to the performance of other firms. The firm with an overall score of 300, for example, did not necessarily top out on every indicator and category; it accumulated the highest composite score. Any ties were broken by favoring the firm that achieved the higher score in the Design category.

Check out the list to find out which firms rose to the top, and discover who made the cut in each of the three categories: businesssustainability, and design. Also take a look at some of the data submitted by firms