Interior Design Unveils the 2023 Sustainability Giants

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Sustainability matters to design firms. It’s big business because it’s good business. Although we’ve gathered data on green practices in the past, last publishing the results in 2016, this year we’ve given the top 100 environmentally focused studios a list of their own—allowing us to better track trends in this all-important sector. The big news: In 2022, total fees for the Sustainability Giants were $1.8 billion. Gensler accounted for $563 million of that, making the firm easily the largest by fees.

Many firms integrate environmentalism into their plans; indeed, some 60 percent of projects completed by the Sustainability Giants have measurable environmental goals. Specific targets have a lower percentage of follow-through, however, either because clients don’t request it—or they balk at the cost. Indeed, only 37 percent of clients mention environmental, social, and corporate governance reporting as integral to their project goals.

In other cases, firms embrace some but not all sustainability practices. Roughly a third of respondents’ projects include green design elements but don’t go all the way to achieving certification, again because the client doesn’t want to foot the extra expense. Measurable sustainable initiatives include tracking embodied carbon as well as WELL, LEED, and Fitwel certifications, but most firms track these at low percentages. Where these firms do well is in specification. About half of FF&C products are chosen based on environmental factors, plus some 26 percent of designers are LEED AP or WELL AP accredited.

Given these considerations, we’ll continue to refine what we track and how we gather data. As for next year, the Sustainability Giants predict a comparable $1.8 billion in fees for 2023. We’ll enjoy seeing how this new group evolves.


Number of Projects Tracking Embodied Carbon


Top Firms Based on Fees from Projects With Measurable Sustainability Goals


1 Gensler 563,093,855 90
2 Perkins&Will 199,000,000 90
3 Page Southerland Page 112,983,421 50
4 AECOM 108,822,000 75
5 HKS 77,192,522 45
6 SmithGroup 54,735,271 61
7 ZGF 47,626,761 44
8 NBBJ 40,000,000 100
9 Ted Moudis Associates 34,000,000 100
10 HMC Architects 25,000,000 65

“Two decades ago, we focused heavily on energy and water consumption as the key metrics for sustainable design. Now equipped with better research on how the built environment impacts health and wellness, Flad is realigning its focus to make the sustainable design process holistic, quantifiable, equitable, and extensive. A project’s impact does not stop at the property line.”

—Kimberly Reddin, Flad Architects

“‘Wellness’ and ‘sustainability’ can be used as check-the-box buzzwords. We’re working with more and more clients who are prioritizing the evolved concept of regenerative design, which centers around leaving the natural environment better than we found it.”

—David Galullo, Rapt Studio

Sustainability Goals Achieved

Number of Projects Achieving WELL

Number of Projects Achieving LEED


Methodology

The Interior Design Giants annual business survey comprises the largest firms ranked by interior design fees for the 12-month period ending December 31, 2022. The listings are generated from only those surveyed. To be recognized as a top 100, Rising, Healthcare, or Hospitality Giant, you must meet the following criteria: Have at least one office location in North America, and generate at least 25% of your interior design fee income in North America. Firms that do not meet the criteria are ranked on our International Giants list. Interior design fees include those attributed to:

1. All aspects of a firm’s in­terior design practice, from strategic planning and programming to design and project management.

2. Fees paid to a firm for work performed by employees and independent contractors who are “full-time staff equivalent.”

Interior design fees do not include revenues paid to a firm and remitted to subcontractors who are not con­sid­ered full-time staff equivalent. For example, certain firms attract work that is subcontracted to a local firm. The originating firm may collect all the fees and re­tain a management or generation fee, paying the remainder to the performing firm. The amounts paid to the latter are not included in fees of the collecting firm when determining its ranking. Ties are broken by rank from last year. Where applicable, all per­cent­ages are based on responding Giants, not their total number. 

All research conducted by ThinkLab, the research division of SANDOW Design Group.

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