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AJ100 Employer of the Year: architecture plb

It’s official – architecture plb is still a great place to work. This two-time winning practice has scooped the Employer of the Year award for the second time running

The education and housing specialists impressed judges RIBA director of practice, Adrian Dobson; Lindsay Urquhart, managing director, Bespoke Careers; and AJ deputy editor Rory Olcayto with its ‘emphasis on work-life balance, supported by family-friendly employment policies such as provision for flexible working’.

The submission was evidence-based and demonstrated a professional approach to adopting good employment practice, resulting in strong responses in the AJ100 staff satisfaction survey. The practice’s ‘keeping-in-touch’ meetings for people on maternity/paternity leave are well documented, as well as the practice’s full range of motivational activities and trips to create an enjoyable working environment.

It’s not just touchy feely stuff that keeps the troops happy – architecture plb also has a benevolent eye fixed on its employees’ pay packets, demonstrating a positive approach to supporting proper pay and conditions for students, including a clearly stated policy not to take advantage of unpaid internships. In the employee survey, 75 per cent of its employees reported that they are very satisfied or satisfied with their salary.

Darling Associates – Highly Commended

Darling Associates came a close second to architecture plb and was awarded a highly commended to mark its enlightened credentials. The practice stands out as only one of two firms in the AJ100 whose team of architects is comprised mainly of women (the other being Hawkins\Brown); at Darling Associates an impressive 65 per cent of the workforce is female, as are all of its associate directors.

The judges commented that the practice has a positive approach to promoting diversity in its recruitment policies and has good employment practices at its heart. These include support for flexible working patterns for staff returning from maternity/paternity leave, as was reflected in the warm responses in the staff satisfaction survey. To help with staff retention the practice has adopted an innovative approach to promoting career development through the establishment of intermediate level ‘project director’ roles. It also encourages staff to keep an eye on their health, supporting initiatives such as a cycle-to-work scheme.

architecture plb

London and Winchester-based architecture plb weathered the downturn with remarkable flair this year, winning the RIBA-run Merchant Taylors’ School design competition in January and landing a £30 million tower project, known as the Blade, for Portsmouth University’s Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities. Backed by developer Watkin Jones, the development – which sits in the listed Victoria Park – features a 33-storey tower, and includes a shared 300-seat lecture theatre and seminar rooms. Due to complete in 2013, the City Council’s planning committee is expected to consider the application in March.

The winner of last year’s AJ100 Employer of the Year award, the practice of 34 architects has risen by seven places in this year’s AJ100 league table and will celebrate its 40th anniversary in July.

The shortlist

architecture plb
Darling Associates
John Thompson and Partners
Paul Davis + Partners
Purcell Miller Tritton

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