Z|S is committed to building a practice with an empathetic culture of acceptance, inclusion, and diversity of perspectives while pursuing relationships with clients that value the power of design to make a social impact.

These values have allowed the firm to maintain a competitive edge in a marketplace where small businesses feel they have no choice but to be acquired by larger firms. Instead, our firm has strengthened and advanced its values over the past 40 years, and today we are even more committed to a culture of transparency and proactive empowerment of all levels. This is evidenced through our commitment to the diversity of our team and profession, opportunities for leadership and creative voice from all members, and active investment in broader access to our services.

As a result, our process and practice instill impact at all scales – interventions that have a valuable effect on the access of architecture to a broader and more diverse audience, as well as the positive transformation for the client’s mission and community that each project serves.  

Studio & Leadership Diversity 

We believe that a diversity of perspectives is paramount to successful architecture, and we recognize the historic gender and racial gap within our field. We support diversity within our firm and the profession through hiring, mentoring, and scholarships. We are proud of the following representations of the diversity of our studio and leadership: 

  • 1/3 of our company is woman-owned  
  • 66% of our team identify as Women, BIPOC, and/or LGBTQ+
  • 43% of our management group are women 
  • 33% of our registered architects are women 

Z|S is committed to providing opportunities for professional development and mentorship to the next generation of minority architecture students in the Baltimore-Metropolitan Area. Offered annually, the Ziger|Snead Architects BIPOC Student Fellowship is designed to foster a more diverse and inclusive profession through the support, mentorship, and professional development of students from historically underrepresented demographics in architecture.  

Investment in Access to Design 

Our mission-driven, human-centered ethos is reflected in the way we support pro-bono projects, community outreach, and research. We are committed to expanding opportunities to bring design to people and communities who do not always have access to our services. This includes providing on average more than 5% of billable hours in pro-bono services directly to non-profits and small businesses in Baltimore City. Recent Pro-Bono partners have included:

We also seek to be a part of the larger dialogue in our field, and we encourage and reward participation in personally fulfilling work outside the firm including up to 5% of available hours from our staff being used for teaching, research, volunteering, and community board participation. Current involvement includes:

Focus on Baltimore City

Z|S is rooted in Baltimore and endeavors to support and improve this city through our work. Our studio intentionally seeks projects and clients with the potential to improve the quality of life in our City. Our work is rooted in a deep understanding of Baltimore’s ethos, history, promise, and challenges. Historically, more than 80% of the studio’s work has been within the City of Baltimore.

With the majority of the firm’s portfolio involving existing buildings within the city, Z|S is extremely well-versed on the various codes, procedures, and regulations specific to working in existing buildings in Baltimore City and we have strong relationships with individuals in the representative agencies. These relationships translate to an efficient process for gaining necessary project approvals. Of importance to this project is our relationship with the fire marshal and code officials in the City and navigation of code requirements for fire protection and life safety within existing, historic structures.

Empowerment and Strategic Initiatives 

Our practice uses a structure of “Studio Teams” to engage staff at all levels. We leverage our collective ingenuity as smart, talented, individuals to problem-solve what is required for Z|S to remain a top-performing design firm with a mission-driven, human-centered ethos. The effort and output of each team helps to keep us informed, aware, and nimble. Organized with three areas of focus: Purpose (Why), Practice (What), and Progress (How), these groups are led by Associates with teams of employees empowered to identify the areas of focus for each year with the goal of developing tangible initiatives that are not driven by owners. The following are examples of the work of the Studio Teams:  

  • BIPOC Student Fellowship Program: Competitive award for a six-month paid internship for architecture students that are Black/African-American, Indigenous, and/or People of Color   
  • Z|S Giving Back Program: Opportunity for employees to advocate for and select organizations to receive charitable donations from the firm each year 
  • Community Engagement Events: Four formal opportunities for strengthening our community and fostering a greater understanding of others: MLK Day of Service, Juneteenth Celebration Event, and two Service Events  
  • Sustainability Action Plan: Guide to proactively make sustainability integral to our design process and advocate and position for tangible sustainability strategies for all projects and advance business operations to reflect our commitment to stewardship of environmental, social, and financial resources 
  • New Employee Onboarding Guide: Checklist and resources to support access to information essential to the practice, standards and templates, and establish mentorship opportunities with multiple roles and individuals