Practice Matters

RECORD's Practice section is a comprehensive source of information for architects seeking current news, reports, and the innovative thinking they need to run their businesses.

Featured Articles
Shanghai Tower

Top 300 Architecture Firms
By Zachary Edelson
Who earned the most from architecture billings last year? Check out our annual list of the top performing U.S. firms.

Pictured: Gensler's Shanghai Tower; Image courtesy Gensler

Where Credit is Due
By Cheryl L. Davis, Esq., and Suzanne Stephens
Conflict can occur when an architect departs a firm but still wants to get credit for the design.

Photo © Rogan Coles

The Legacy Project
By Fred A. Bernstein
Carrying a firm on after the founders are gone requires planning but isn't right for every practice.

Photo © Ulrik Jantzen

Bringing It All Back Home
By Jenna M. McKnight
A firsthand look at how Diébédo Francis Kéré has used his architecture to transform his rural village.

Photo © Jamie Keats

Born and Raised in Hale County
By Beth Broome
Rural Studio's legendary program celebrates 20 years of design-build in west Alabama.

Photo © Timothy Hursley

Architure and Labor: Site Unseen

Architecture and Labor: Site Unseen
By Anna Fixsen
As pressure mounts in the Persian Gulf for migrant-labor reform after scores of worker deaths, architects should consider the broader impact of their designs.

Photo © Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

Iberê Camargo Foundation

The Architect's Dilemma: When To Say No
By Michael Sorkin
What are the factors—political, social, or environmental—that architects should consider when deciding if they should turn down or resign from a job?

Rendering: courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects

The New Master Builders
By Joann Gonchar, AIA
Architects warm to a project delivery method that makes them more integral to the construction process and reasserts their control over the final product.

Photo © Lawrence Anderson

Shanghai Tower Top 300 Architecture Firms
By Anna Fixsen
For the second consecutive year, Gensler maintains the top position on Architectural Record’s Top 300 Architecture Firms list, which ranks companies according to architectural revenue in the prior year as reported to our sister publication Engineering News-Record.


Image courtesy Gensler

The Cost of Competing The Big-Firm Advantage
By Lance Hosey
The future of sustainability rests with large collaborative networks, rather than lone visionaries.


Illustration by Brian Rea

The Cost of Competing The Cost of Competing
By Fred A. Bernstein
Betting on a win can be a big risk for design firms.


Photo courtesy Bercy Chen Studio

The Art of Presentation The Art of Presentation
By Suzanne Stephens
Getting on the short list of an invited design competition is one thing. Nailing it is another.


Photo courtesy MVRDV/Wieland & Gouwens

The Pain in Spain The Pain in Spain
By David Cohn
The economy is having a devastating effect on architectural talent.


Photo ©Antonio Rull

Top 250 Architecture Firms: In Rankings by Revenue, Gensler Takes the Crown Top 250 Architecture Firms: In Rankings by Revenue, Gensler Takes the Crown
By Laura Mirviss
Nabbing the title from long-standing leader AECOM, Gensler claimed the top spot in our 2012 "Top 250 Architecture Firms" list, which ranks U.S. companies based on architectural revenue from the prior year.


Photo © Gensler

Casey Jones, Ron Bogle, Nancy Easton, and Steve Turckes assess entries in Perkins+Will’s annual design competition in 2011. Recognizing Internal Talent
By C.J. Hughes
Architecture firms are increasingly offering in-house design awards in an effort to boost morale and inspire creativity.


Photo courtesy Perkins+Wil

Does “Doing Good” Pay the Bills? Does “Doing Good” Pay the Bills?
By C.J. Hughes

Architects devoted to humanitarian work are finding ways to make ends meet.

Photo © Emily Axtman / Design Corps

The Pitfalls of “Scope-creep” The Pitfalls of “Scope-creep”
By Robert F. Herrmann

When a small project grows, you may face compensatory and consequential damages.

Illustration: © Alex Williamson

G. Chaise Nunnally Billings Index Rises
By Jenna M. McKnight
G. Chaise Nunnally Top 250 Firms: 2011 Rankings by Revenue
By Jenna M. McKnight

Titans Maintain Lead While Industry Suffers.

Photo © Nanjing Chunshan

G. Chaise Nunnally Assessing the Intern Development Program
By G. Chaise Nunnally

Now three decades old, has the IDP lived up to its lofty goals?

Merger Mania Merger Mania
By C.J. Hughes

In tough economic times many architecture firms are being swallowed in a merger and acquisition frenzy, sometimes with unexpected results.

The Name Game The Name Game
By Martin Filler

The biggest quandary facing some architects is the wording on the door.

Americans Abroad Americans Abroad

We spotlight three American firms doing ambitious work abroad. Different design approaches were involved in each project, and the lessons learned about working overseas are well worth examining.

IPD Contracts: Ready for Prime Time? IPD Contracts: Ready for Prime Time?
By B.J. Novitski

Lawyers say integrated-project-delivery documents have come a long way, but caution is still in order.

More Profitable Than Ever More Profitable Than Ever
By Charles Linn, FAIA

Two architects talk candidly about how they turned their business around even before the recession.

Top 250 Architecture Firms Income Belly Flops; Firms Swim for Work Offshore
By Charles Linn, FAIA

Top 250 Architecture Firms’ 2009 revenue fell dramatically, while foreign work was stable.

No Need to Reinvent the Wheel No Need to Reinvent the Wheel
By B.J. Novitski

We create ways of doing all kinds of things. Here’s how some firms save the knowledge for future use.

Minority and Disadvantaged: Pros, Cons Minority and Disadvantaged: Pros, Cons
By G. Chaise Nunnally

MBE and DBE firm owners debate whether the designation really helps their business.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

To Tweet or Not to Tweet?
By Jessica Sheridan, Assoc. AIA
Increasingly, architects are tapping into social media to connect with peers and promote their work.

Illustration © Otto Steininger

utting Yourself Out  There

Putting Yourself Out There
By William Bostwick
Three recent projects attract clients by offering design services in unconventional locations.

Photo © Michael Hanson

Managing Layoffs

Managing Layoffs
By B.J. Novitski
Making the worst task slightly easier for all.

Illustration © Matthew Hollister

A Stimulus Success Story A Stimulus Success Story
By Bruce Buckley

When the economy tanked, long-term planning paid off for one D.C. firm.

Got Work? Get Paid Got Work? Get Paid
By B.J. Novitski

There are many ways to get a client to pay, starting with frank communication and looking out for red flags.

America’s Best Architecture Schools Americaís Best Architecture Schools
By David Sokol

RECORD looks at the 2010 survey and asks people in academia and the profession what it all means.

In-house engineers make sustainable design work better In-house engineers make sustainable design work better
By B.J. Novitski

Architecture firms are hiring engineers and A/E firms are revamping the way they work. Why? Because collaborating sooner and more often makes their architecture better.

Eco-design risks Eco-design risks
By Bruce Buckley

As sustainable design and construction gain momentum, project teams are facing new risks and finding limited solutions. GreenSource magazine, RECORD’s sister publication, examines these emerging eco-design risks.

Illustration © Christoph Nieman

Understanding megatrends helps firms plan for the future Understanding megatrends helps firms plan for the future
By B.J. Novitski

Which building types will be taking off in the coming years? What firm management challenges will confront nearly everyone? Studying demographic trends can help you see into the future.

2008 Revenues of RECORD’s Top 250 Firms 2008 Revenues of RECORD’s Top 250 Firms
By Charles Linn, FAIA
Although U.S. economy battered many architecture firms last year, strangely enough total 2008 revenue for the Top 250 firms was up 9 percent over 2007.
Check to see where your firm placed on the list.
Preparing for that make-or-break job interview

Preparing for that make-or-break job interview
By C.J. Hughes
If you’re trying to get a job, and lucky enough to land an interview, these suggestions from recruiters and firm principals may help you make the most of the opportunity.

Read more about finding work in a bad economy in our Architects’ Survival Guide.

Illustration © A. Richard Allen

Sustainability assessments: an opportunity for new work

Sustainability assessments: an opportunity for new work
By B.J. Novitski
Some architecture firms are finding work performing assessments for owners who want to make their existing buildings more sustainable. This kind of work might be a lifesaver in this bear market for conventional design services.

Illustration © Scott Menchin

It’s a very good time to develop your firm’s collaboration skills

It’s a very good time to develop your firm’s collaboration skills
By Andrew Pressman, FAIA
During a challenging period in which a paucity of work may leave key employees with increased amounts of downtime, there is an opportunity to examine, hone, and reflect on the art of multidisciplinary collaboration and teamwork.

Illustration © Harry Campbell

Greening your design culture to gain a competitive edge

Greening your design culture to gain a competitive edge
By B.J. Novitski
The troubled economy may allow your firm the time it needs to rethink the philosophies that underlie its design work. It’s an especially good time to think about your firm’s green design culture, and to gain a competitive edge in the process.

Illustration © Edel Rodriguez

Client care: how to keep them coming back for more

Client care: how to keep them coming back for more
By B.J. Novitski
“Client care” is more than a general notion of how to interact with clients. It’s understanding what clients truly want and making sure that everyone in the firm keeps that in mind as they do their jobs.

Image © Robert Dale/

Managing the ever-more-distributed workforce

Managing the ever-more-distributed workforce
By B.J. Novitski
Despite fast communication speeds, modern companies face challenges of trust and control with off-site workers. Each case is different, but the balance can be adjusted with the use of technology and an understanding of the cultural barriers created by geographic separation.

Photo © NASA TV/Epa/Corbis

Professionalizing pro bono practice

Professionalizing pro bono practice
By Casius Pealer
The notion that architecture firms have an ethical obligation to provide services [pro bono] is gaining wide-spread acceptance. Here’s how some firms are making the most of the experience.

Photo courtesy McCall Design Group


Mediation for Architects 101
By B.J. Novitski
Resolving conflicts that arise in the construction process can be quite costly and time consuming. This month's Practice Matters column covers mediation, the first phase of dispute resolution that AIA contracts require before arbitration and litigation can commence.

Illustration: © Corbis

Making the Most of Your Firmís Millennials
By B.J. Novitski
Working with ["Millennials"]— young people who were born after 1980— can be either frustrating or exhilarating. This month's Practice Matters discusses how Gensler and Perkins+Will are embracing the challenges and opportunities that come from developing the future leaders of our profession.

Photo © Getty Images

New AIA agreements support integrated project delivery
By B.J. Novitski
In May, the American Institute of Architects published a new set of legal documents that can restructure relationships among professionals and reformulate the processes of designing and building.

Photo © Mashe |

Top 150 Firms 2007 revenues of RECORD’s Top 150 Firms grew 25 percent
By Charles Linn, FAIA
Architectural Record's Top 150 list, which ranks U.S. firms according to their revenue, has just been released. It reveals that, despite the meltdown of the credit markets, 2007 was by far the profession's best year ever. This year's list includes 100 additional firms.

Could taking on owner’s rep work be a good move for you?
By Alec Applebaum
You trained as an architect, so you work as an architect, right? Maybe not all the time. Some architects are hiring themselves out as owner’s representatives or going to work for salaried jobs at owner’s rep firms.

Image © The Gallery Collection/Corbis

Opportunity is the key to hiring and retaining talented staff
By B.J. Novitski
Unless your firm offers opportunities for advancement, educational growth, and creative work, your employees may begin to feel like uninspired worker bees.

Photo © Geoff Brightling/Getty Images

Creating a firm culture that supports innovative design
By Andrew Pressman, FAIA
Within the workplace, the swift and easy exchange of ideas is vital to the design process. What may not be so obvious is that there are strategies for cultivating this type of creative environment.

Photo courtesy IDEO

Just-updated AIA contracts resolve many issues
By B.J. Novitski
This month, we walk you through some of the many changes the AIA recently made to its standard contracts, which are updated every 10 years. In the recent publication round, 40 of more than 100 legal documents were revised, some of them substantially.

Photo © SXC/Daniel Jaeger Vendruscolo

Professional liability insurance: When to get serious
By Casius Pealer
If your firm has never had professional liability insurance, this article will help you understand its hidden benefits and the unusual circumstances that might lead to a claim against you. You might decide it's time to take the plunge.

Insurance statistics: Courtesy Victor O. Schinnerer & Company

Firms embrace the emerging role of the sustainability guru
By Russell Fortmeyer
The emergence of directors of sustainability at firms of all sizes has occurred more rapidly as the green design market takes off. But who are these sustainability gurus and what kinds of roles are they playing?

Photo © Mark Mainz/Getty Images

What’s fueling the firm mergers and acquisitions trend? Growth.
By B.J. Novitski
In the summer of 2007, two large American architecture firms made news when they announced they were being sold to larger European firms. Why are these firms selling? Does this represent a trend, and if so, what is its significance for the rest of the profession?

llustration © Corbis

Good leadership helps practice, the profession, and society
By Andrew Pressman, AIA
With just two brief quotes from this 1957 film classic, Henry Fonda’s character—an architect—begins to emerge as the leader of a group of men who are deciding a capital murder case. He is the lone dissenter initially but eventually is able to persuade the other 11 jurors to reexamine the evidence and acquit on the basis of reasonable doubt.

Photo © Getty Images

Nonprofit work experience: beneficial for all, but far too rare
By Casius Pealer
Public and nonprofit practices are playing an increasing role in the professional development of young architects and yield great benefits for all concerned. The entrepreneurialism, close client contact, and quality design work achieved by those fortunate enough to obtain these positions make them desirable for traditional firms who want experienced interns.

Photo © Jamie Blosser


Can project alliancing agreements change the way we build?
By Chris Noble
Errors, omissions, inefficiencies, delays, coordination problems, cost overruns, productivity losses—the list of complaints against (and often by) architects and contractors is a long one. The Construction Users Roundtable (CURT) has characterized the difficulties experienced in typical projects as “artifacts of a construction process fraught by lack of cooperation and poor information integration.”

Top 150 Architecture Firms' 2006 revenues total $8 billion
By Charles Linn, FAIA
Each year RECORD publishes the Top 150 Architecture Firms list, based on information collected by its sister publication, Engineering News-Record, for its Top 500 Design Firms Sourcebook. According to the latest survey, 2006 was a good year for architects, who reported a combined $8 billion in revenues.

Integrated practice in perspective: A new model for the architectural profession
By Andrew Pressman, FAIA
The inefficiencies inherent in the process of design and construction are necessitating a shift to greater multidisciplinary collaboration and information sharing among project team members.

Where independent contractors are concerned, know the rules
By Alec Appelbaum
Architecture firms may need to lure extra hands for all sorts of reasons. One might be to staff up for a sweet opportunity that’s too good to pass up, but is just a bit beyond the capacity of the office. Another might be to get the benefits of a specialist whose skills are perfect for a current project but might or might not be needed in the future. Those sorts of situations always present principals with a dilemma: do you hire new staff permanently or expand temporarily using hired guns?

Forum: Are you an independent contractor or a person who hires them? Share your experiences

Five H.R. mistakes you can't afford to make
By Liz Ryan
To those of us who haven't made it our profession, "human resources" has the ring of something that can be ignored, handed off to a chief financial officer or, worse, another employee who's already wearing five different hats. After all, drafting policies to handle allegations of harassment, keeping on top of health insurance regulations, and writing noncompetes aren't the sorts of things that get the entrepreneurial juices flowing. They are, however, exactly the sorts of things that can turn into big expensive headaches if not handled properly.


New AIA firm survey indicates that while business is good, the profession itself changes slowly
By Andrew Pressman, FAIA
The just-released AIA firm survey, The Business of Architecture, is essential reading for the profession’s observers because it is the most complete benchmarking of trends such as firm size, economy, project delivery methods, and many other practice concerns.

Forum: Doubts? Surprises? To share your thoughts about the latest AIA Firm Survey. Click here

Putting yourself out there:
What to consider when designing your firm Web site
By Ingrid Spencer
Within the last 10 years Web sites have become a firm’s most important means of making an impression on clients, potential employees, and the public. This article examines the ways in which this potent form of communication can benefit those seeking information about your firm—or baffle them.

Forum: Does your firm Web site work well? Tell us why it does, and let others see for themselves. Show us here.

Pictured: John Friedman Alice Kimm’s website


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