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AJ100 2020

AJ100 2020: Design quality is (marginally) practices’ top priority

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Asked to award points to seven business priorities, AJ100 firms valued design quality most highly

This year’s AJ100 survey of practice priorities included delivering environmentally sustainable projects for the first time. Perhaps surprisingly, this ranked only fifth out of seven priorities overall, with the list topped by design quality.

Asked to allocate 100 points among seven priorities, design quality averaged just over 18 per cent of the points, closely followed by client satisfaction (just under 18 per cent) and being a good place to work (17.6 per cent). Overall, the ability to win new business ranked fourth (at 14.8 per cent), followed by ‘delivering environmentally sustainable projects’ (13.6 per cent).

Financial strength, measured by profit margins, ranked second last (11.8 per cent). Perhaps surprisingly, only 18 of the practices considered profit margins to be a, or the, most important priority, while two practices considered it the least important. Recognition within the architecture profession was firmly bottom (6.2 per cent).

Priorities of practices that charge...

When these priorities are analysed by the relative fees charged by the practices, it can be seen that design quality and delivering environmentally sustainable projects tend to be slightly more important among those charging relatively high fees.

In other priorities, the AJ100 survey asked respondents for the name of the architecture practice that they most admired. Fosters came top for the second year running, followed by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, Allies and Morrison and Hawkins\Brown. However, the fact that 33 other practices were named shows that architects vary widely in whom they admire.

Similarly, while The Bartlett at UCL remains the most admired school of architecture in the UK by AJ100 practices, a wide variety of schools were mentioned at least once, with one respondent reporting: ‘Difficult to pick just one; our experience of attending degree shows, interviewing candidates and reviewing portfolios across the year doesn’t suggest that any one school stands out as significantly better than any other.’

Bruce Tether is professor of management at the Alliance Manchester Business School at the University of Manchester and Research Director of the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre.

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