25 of the Most Environmentally Friendly Architecture Firms

By Tammi Edwards on April 26th, 2019

When someone is designing and constructing a building, the work will have an inevitable impact on the environment, and it usually won’t be a positive impact. As awareness and advocacy around protecting our planet’s environment has grown, the job of the architects has gotten more complicated.

It might seem that they face a serious dilemma, one where they must decide whether to design and construct the building according to their vision or whether to design and construct the building as to minimize its impact on the environment. Luckily, plenty of architecture firms around the country have found ways around that dilemma by applying the practices of sustainable design to their work.

There is probably no way to completely eliminate the negative impact a major construction project will have on the environment. But there are enough environmentally-conscious architects in this country to make sure that the issue is being addressed. Here is our list of 25 architecture firms – ranked in no particular order – that are using sustainable design to create innovative and beautifully designed buildings, without hurting the environment in the process. 

The List

Johnston Design Group

A small firm headquartered in Greenville, SC, the Johnston Design Group has been widely recognized for its principled approach to sustainable design. Their respect for Mother Nature and the natural resources of their area help them maintain their reputation as one of the most environmentally conscious architecture firms in the country. And their inspired design ideas and skill help ensure that their projects are still aesthetically pleasing too.

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Led by noted proponent of organic, green, and sustainable architecture, the San Francisco-based firm has quickly earned its place amongst the nation’s leaders in sustainable architecture. The firm believes in environmentally friendly designs, but they also believe that those designs can be just as breathtaking as any other project. As if its designs weren’t enough, the firm also lends its green expertise to other projects, consulting firms, developers, and contractors alike on the sustainable design that makes the most sense.

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Robertson Strong Apgar Architects

This reputable firm in Upstate New York has been around the industry long enough that they have developed an excellent knowledge of creating designs that fit the client’s needs while simultaneously responsibly protecting the surrounding environment by using sustainable practices. From county office buildings to local elementary schools to the Syracuse University Football Hall of Fame building, RSA is a staple in the surrounding area thanks to its sterling reputation and innovative green ideas.

Carlton Architecture

Just read the verbiage on their website and you can tell that this firm doesn’t commit to any project without thinking through a detailed plan and vision first. Part of that plan and vision includes finding an effective way to merge client desires with environmentally friendly designs. The North Carolina firm takes pride in its commitment to the environment and luckily, their staff is talented and creative enough that the beauty of their designs doesn’t suffer.

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Ratcliff Architecture

If you hire Ratcliff, you better have expected a sustainable design, because the sustainable and environmentally conscious designs are at the very core of what this Northern California firm provides. The fact that the firm has such a prestigious client list – including the University of California-Berkeley and the Kaiser Foundation – under its belt and is still committed to preserving the environment surrounding their projects just goes to show that, when done right, sustainable design is an incredibly important architectural style.

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Architecture West

You had to guess that any architecture firm based in energy-conscious Fort Collins, Colo. would be steeped in environmentally friendly principals, and Architecture West fits that mold. Much of their work centers on the creation of sustainable, high-performance designs and how it relates to daylighting and facility energy management. The bottom line is that they have tons of experience creating energy-efficient yet still aesthetically pleasing buildings, and that is more than enough to deserve recognition.

Coates Design INC.

Led by green building and design enthusiast Matthew Coates, this Seattle firm dedication to holding themselves responsible for the environmental impact of their projects has made them one of the more well-recognized sustainable design firms in the country. The team doesn’t just want to build effective, high-performance structures; they also want their projects to contribute positively to the local community – something that can be hard to find in the construction business.

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It’s not every day that one of the country’s largest and most well-known architecture firms is also among its most environmentally mentally responsible, but I guess that makes HOK an outlier. This St. Louis-based firm is one of the most respected design firms in the country, and the promotion and championing of sustainable design has been one of its core values for almost three decades. Few firms offer a more all-encompassing package of sustainable services, and the firm has even published its own guidebook to sustainable design, proving that even the most influential and successful architecture firms can be successful and environmentally friendly at the same time.

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Margulies Perruzzi Architects

It’s rare to find such a large and entrenched architecture firm that is so committed to sustainable design projects, but Margulies Perruzzi proves that – while rare – it isn’t impossible. The firm is one of Boston’s largest and has been in business for more than two decades, and they use their impressive influence to work with clients to develop the most environmentally friendly design. Don’t believe their commitment level? Go visit their offices, where their sustainable design principles are on display in all of their beauty.

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OTJ Architects

This Washington, D.C. firm understands that a client’s budget might prevent them from creating as eco-friendly building as possible, but that doesn’t mean they won’t work with you to save costs and the environment at the same time. They recycle construction features to reduce costs and use innovative designs to reduce waste costs and also save a lot of energy. In fact, OTJ will give your company and building a top-to-bottom sustainable tune-up if you so choose.

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Lake|Flato Architects

What sets Lake|Flato apart from other firms dipping their toes into the sustainable design pool is that there are few firms that take the time to really examine how a project and its surrounding environment can exist together, naturally. This San Antonio firm has considered themselves “stewards of the natural environment and client’s resources” since they were established in the 1980’s, and their work shows their dedication. Not only are their designs pleasing to the eye, but they are energy-saving, environmentally friendly testaments to the power of sustainable design.

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Archaeo Architects

This New Mexico-based architecture firm specializes in designing authentic Southwestern architecture, and because of that specialization, they are also particularly fond of creating simple, effective architecture that respects the surrounding landscape. But don’t think that Archaeo is just a primitive firm; they use 3D imaging to help clients get a full sense of the building, and still maintain principled opinions that environmentally friendly building practices are the best practices. Few firms anywhere dedicate themselves to understanding the surrounding nature better than Archaeo.

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Berliner and Associates

A full-service design firm, Berliner and Associates won’t just handle the architecture of a project, they will handle the planning and the interior design as well, and all while trying to ensure the project is sustainable and healthy for the environment. Like any self-respecting design firm, Berliner and Associates cares deeply about their clients’ wants and needs, they just also try to reduce the environmental impact of their projects along the way.

Dyron Murphy Architects, P.C.

A Native American-owned architecture firm that provides services to its community specifically, Dyron Murphy boasts an impressive portfolio – including schools, medical facilities, and office buildings – that is filled with compelling and environmentally conscious designs. The work can be tricky because it not only needs to be a high performance and aesthetically pleasing building, but it also needs to be culturally relevant. Thus far, they have been able to do just that, all while using green building practices to keep the surrounding environment as undisturbed as possible.

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Gerard Lee Architects

This Oakland, Calif. firm subscribes to the belief that creativity can help create a better environment, which might be why their specializations in sustainable and environmentally healthy projects has made them one of the more widely recognized green building firm. Gerard Lee Architects has taken a scholarly approach and carefully studies the impact of green building and strategies to make it more cost-effective. The firm looks at projects in a holistic manner, and the result is usually an effective, environmentally friendly design that leaves everyone – including Mother Nature – happy with the result.

Catalyst Architecture

From the minute you visit their website, it should be easy to tell that Catalyst Architecture cares about the environment. Not only do they believe that a building must work in cooperation with the nature around it, they also use their ample creative abilities to come up with innovative designs that will be energy-efficient and safe for the environment, while not losing any of their exterior beauty and effectiveness. The conviction that clients’ budget needs can be combined with the environment’s ecological needs make this Northern Arizona firm once of the most environmentally friendly in the country.

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Carlson Studio Architecture

A full-service design firm and leader in sustainable and nature-friendly design, Carlson Studio Architecture understands that no living thing lives in isolation and tries very hard to ensure their projects do not disturb the surrounding nature. They believe so strongly in their eco-friendly approach that they don’t stop at just design; they also offer a consulting service that assists with understanding and crafting a sustainable project that works best for everyone.  The best part is the firm’s staff uses it skills of innovation to incorporate all aspects of the surrounding area – including natural light – into their finished product.

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Barrett Studio Architecture

Rooted in a holistic and environmentally sound approach to design, Barrett Studio Architecture has emerged at the forefront of the green building movement thanks to their deep beliefs in the importance of organic and sustainable building. The firm, which is located in Boulder, Colo., talks a lot about the idea of living architecture and their utmost respect of Mother Nature. This is why they have championed the idea of alternative building systems and work hard to create energy-efficient projects. Their passion for nature seems only matched by their passion to create memorable architecture, that works in harmony with the environment and surrounding community.

Zero Energy Design

The firm’s name basically gives it away, but Zero Energy Design has emerged as a leader in modern green building practices and energy-efficient designs. This full-service design will build the project, renovate the project, or offer their energy-saving expertise and consult on the project. But the one constant remains their commitment to the environment and designs that reduce energy as much as possible. Inspired by the surrounding environment of a project, this Boston-based firm uses cutting-edge green building strategies to create some of the sleekest, trendiest, and most environmentally friendly designs anywhere.

SWBR Architects

Another Upstate New York firm, SWBR’s mission statement says they “exist to create successful and sustainable design solutions,” and they back that up with more than 30 years of design experience and a litany of projects that combine their creative expertise with their passion for promoting and raising awareness for sustainable, eco-friendly design. They don’t specifically cater to clients interested in sustainable and environmentally sound design, but they are staffed with nearly two dozen employees accredited by U.S. Green Building Council as leaders in Energy and Environmental Design, so everyone knows they are capable.

The Epsten Group

Whether it’s planning, building, renovating or consulting, everything The Epsten Group specializes in has an environmental tinge to it. This Atlanta firm has built a national reputation on their dedication to not only high-performance building and consulting, but also sustainable and environmentally sensitive practices that incorporate natural light and green building practices to reduce waste and energy use. Their consulting service is renowned for its environmentally friendly strategies and they are considered experts in energy modeling and systems, and envelope commissioning.

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Shelter Architecture

Priding themselves on their environmentally responsible and holistic approach to design, Shelter Architecture has become well-known in Minnesota as a creative, innovative, and environmentally sensitive full-service design firm. Willing to take on architecture, landscaping, or interior design projects, Shelter’s detailed and collaborative approach to design and construction leaves no stone unturned in its goal of delivering a beautiful and sustainable design. This small, award-winning firm has a sterling reputation for creating beautiful projects that will also make sure the impact on the environment isn’t overwhelming.

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Maclay Architects

In a state known for its beautiful foliage, sweeping landscapes, and dedication to the preservation of nature, you better believe that one of Vermont’s best architecture firms is going to firmly believe in the importance of sustainable design and green building. Maclay pulls no punches; they are a firm dedicated to environmentally responsible designs and their use of ecological and energy-efficient design strategies proves it. Few firms create their own metrics to measure the ecological impact of a project, but Maclay is so serious about respecting the environment that they collaborate with their clients to ensure that the project can be environmentally friendly without sacrificing any of the aesthetic value of the project.

Kipnis Architecture and Planning

A relatively young firm, Kipnis Architecture’s progressive approach to design quickly led to them becoming one of the Chicago area’s best environmentally friendly and sustainable design firms. Their belief that green building principals open the door for new and innovative design strategies has resulted in some incredibly beautiful and environmentally responsible projects. Whether it’s preserving the surrounding nature or reducing energy emissions to nearly zero, Kipnis Architecture and Planning is bucking design trends and also helping people understand the importance of sustainable design.

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Siegel and Strain Architects

Despite having been around for nearly three decades, Siegel and Strain Architects didn’t need to come around to the idea of sustainable design, they were championing the idea from the start. The firm only provides master planning and building design services, but their award-winning projects are rife with green building practices and environmentally friendly design strategies. The firm should be lauded for their commitment to combining innovative design practices with environmentally sustainable solutions, which is why we included them on the list in the first place.