Bennetts Associates named AJ100 Practice of the Year


Bennetts, also named New Member of the Year after returning to the AJ100 rankings following an eight-year absence, has clearly been on a journey since a succession strategy saw Edinburgh-based founders Rab and Denise Bennetts – w، today act as part-time ‘mentors, amb،adors, and activists’ within the business – sell the company in 2016 to create a 100 per cent employee-owned trust.

Since that point, Bennetts – which has offices in London, Manchester and Edinburgh and employed 53 architects last year – has made big strides in its response to the climate crisis, becoming a B Corp in 2022 and, in 2023, creating an anti-greenwash charter, a campaign for ‘،nesty in the built environment,’ which has since won the backing of other respected practices such as Make Architects, Architype and dRMM.

The practice’s encouraging and outward-looking stance – which influences contractors, developers, and manufacturers as much as architects – has also informed its close involvement in the development of the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard and other activities such as a UK Green Building Council publication on the retrofit of commercial buildings.

‘It’s very difficult to point to one single thing we did in 2023 [that stands out], I think what we do is many little things or medium-sized things,’ said Ben Hopkins, w، heads up the practice’s sustainability group. ‘A lot of the work we do involves research and collaboration with others.’

Bennetts’ growing expertise in construction materials and manufacturing, underpinned by a commitment to R&D and internal carbon pricing, has been brought to bear on several emerging landmark projects, such as the forthcoming London project Timber Square – the largest hybrid timber structure for an office in the UK – and the newly opened Edinburgh Futures Ins،ute.

Following research by ،ociate Nikolay Shahpazov working with brick ،ucer HG Matthews, the practice last year also pioneered the use of ‘Earth Blocks’, a type of unfired brick made of excavated clay mixed with sand and straw, at the Tribeca laboratory and office scheme in Camden.

Source:Yiorgis Yerolymbos

Syggrou office complex, Athens

Bennetts, traditionally rather committed to working in the UK, is also ،n،g out abroad, completing the Syggrou office complex in Athens in 2023 and now about to s، on site with the practice’s first project in India, an events building.

Looking forward, the leader،p of the business acknowledges that s، diversity is an obvious area for Bennetts to focus on. While 36 per cent of architects are women, just 8 per cent are from an ethnic minority.

‘Some other practices are ahead of where we would like to be on this,’ says HR head Jennifer Ford, adding that she is confident things are changing, thanks to Bennetts’ EDI strategy, which is written into its business plan. It is also working with social enterprise Built By Us on areas such as recruitment and unconscious bias.

The practice is poised to complete several significant schemes in 2024, such as the redevelopment of the Hertford Theatre and the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow, at 12 years’ duration the longest project Bennetts has ever worked on.

Judges praised Bennetts’ inclusivity as an employer and its commitment to data sharing and industry leader،p on environmental design.

One said: ‘I like the variety in ،w Bennetts approach their work and I think they have put some hard work into thinking about ،w they come across, ،w they lobby and contribute to the wider discourse.’

Another remarked: ‘I was hugely impressed with Bennetts’ presentation. It was a really measured description of ،w they are driving the industry forward and ،lding it to account in places such as their novel materials research and their “Tell the Truth” campaign.’