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How Smaller Architecture Firms Are Adopting Sustainable Design

When it comes to sustainability, many smaller architecture firms are interested but still getting there.

small architecture firm survey question
We hear a lot about the sustainability commitments and plans of large architecture firms, but the reality is that the vast majority of firms—about 75% in 2019, according to research done by the American Institute of Architects (AIA)—are small (by their definition, “small” means ten or fewer employees). Although these small firms represent a modest share of architecture billings, their work is essential, particularly since they dominate the single-family residential market. And midsize firms (ten to 49 employees) are crucial too, representing a small portion of AIA membership but a full 38% of architectural billings.

So just how green are these smaller firms?

BuildingGreen president Nadav Malin, Hon. AIA, hosted a panel of small-firm leaders at the 2022 AIA Conference on Architecture. In addition to offering advice on how smaller firms can pivot to more sustainable practices, the session included an informal survey of participants to gauge what they’re already accomplishing. (According to survey results, 59% of participants met AIA’s definition of “small,” while the others had 11 or more employees.)

Sustainability is of interest among 64% of respondents, and these same respondents say they try to interest their clients. While almost 60% described themselves as supportive of sustainable design, another 37% said they were passionate about it.

At the same time, most are not signatories of the 2030 Commitment, nor do they have sustainability action plans, but half reported that they either always or usually make it a regular practice to discuss environmental impacts of decisions with clients. (Such discussions have been required by the AIA Code of Ethics since 2018.)

Download this PDF to see all the survey results.


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Published August 5, 2022

Melton, P. (2022, August 5). How Smaller Architecture Firms Are Adopting Sustainable Design. Retrieved from

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