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AJ100 practices should use their power to drive the sustainability agenda

Emily Booth
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Two-thirds of the practices in this year’s AJ100 have signed up to Architects Declare. Now they must follow through with far-reaching changes in approach, says Emily Booth

The AJ100 has been charting the achievements of the UK’s biggest architectural practices for 24 years – and it’s observed a lot of change in that time. But some years see bigger shifts than others, and this is one of those times.

We unveil the results of this year’s survey against a cultural shift in what the practice of successful architecture means. The focus on the climate change emergency has intensified. Back in February we examined the issue in our ‘wake up’ issue. But what might once have been considered niche concerns are now front and centre, and part of a national conversation.

At the time of writing, two-thirds of the AJ100 companies, 80 per cent of the top 50 and every practice in the top 10 has signed up to the Architects Declare initiative. Its pledges are testing and far-reaching. They require a change in approach and a change in thinking.

Our survey findings demonstrate the profession’s resilience amid political and economic turbulence 

The AJ100 practices represent the most powerful players in the UK architecture industry. They have the clout, the expertise and the drive to effect positive change on what gets built in our name. Often, that might mean less new building. As Simon Sturgis, adviser to the RIBA on sustainability and founder of consultancy Targeting Zero Carbon, notes: ‘We should be designing for future retrofit, not future demolition.’

It is heartening to see that, from the figures in this year’s AJ100 survey, change is in evidence. For example, substantially more practices now have a director of sustainability or equivalent. Eighty-eight per cent of them are now engaging in low-carbon CPD. And the winner of this year’s AJ100 Sustainable Practice of the Year, Architype, demonstrates just how good sustainable design can be.

Architype paper store iwm

Architype paper store iwm

Imperial War Museum paper store by Architype, AJ100 Sustainable Practice of the Year

The AJ100 survey – analysed by Bruce Tether, a professor of management at the Alliance Manchester Business School – offers annual, detailed analysis about the realities of running the biggest practices in architecture. The findings demonstrate the profession’s resilience in the face of political and economic turbulence.

As the AJ100 moves into its 25th year we will continue to reflect this, and increasingly focus on where and how sustainability is helping to shape the future of practice. The power of the biggest companies should be used to drive forward the sustainability agenda – and we look forward to supporting that endeavour. 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • but what should they actually be doing? I think the overly vague title of sustainability is itself a problem, we should have solid zero carbon plans with dates and milestones. We should stop muddying the water by including health and other aspects and be clear if we are protecting our health, the health of local ecologies, or the health of the planet at large. if it isnt measured and scientific it wont be done, maybe the next awards should actually be based on measurements...

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