Previously branded as America’s dirtiest city, Chattanooga has transformed into a green one. Now, the city is known for its scenic hills, gorgeous gorges, and majestic rivers perfect for outdoor activities. Triathletes, rock climbers, and other outdoor enthusiasts now find Chattanooga as one of the best places to go to experience nature. 

In addition, the city has transformed into the mecca of green technology. This is the result of combined efforts between the government, the community, and commercial organizations. In transportation, the city has switched to electric, emission-free vehicles. Coal plants have been shut down and companies conscious of their carbon footprint are encouraged to establish business in the city. 

Architects in the city are contributing to helping these companies establish environment-friendly facilities. These 9 firms listed below are all members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and either have LEED-accredited members or LEED-certified projects. Their time in the industry spans from 7 to 88 years. During these years, they have built commercial structures that have impressed the press, award-giving bodies, and clients in Chattanooga and the surrounding areas.

Tinker Ma

719 Cherry St. Suite 200, Chattanooga, TN 37402

Established in 2014, Tinker Ma is the youngest firm on the list. Within seven years, the firm quickly made waves in the industry. It has collected several awards and secured many press features. Chattanooga Times Free Press, Hospitality Design, and City Scope Magazine are some publications that took notice of the firm. In 2020, the firm earned the Merit Award from the AIA, BRIC Award for its work in McMahan Law Firm in Chattanooga. The McMahan Law Firm project required a design that fits the firm’s social security law and personal injury specialization. Keeping this in mind, Tinker Ma fully renovated the 12,000-square-foot structure into an accessible and safe law firm. This is reflected in the smooth flow of the building’s floor plan as well as the pathways outside the building. 

Projects like the McMahan Law Firm proves that Tinker Ma is a firm that puts great attention to the clients’ needs. Its thorough understanding of spaces and requirements is one of the reasons why it has immediately made a mark in the industry. With LEED APs Thomas Palmer, Craig Peavy, and Jessica Stack leading the firm, this company shows utmost consideration to the environment in each project. Joining these leaders in producing top-notch, sustainable commercial structures is Trey Wheeler, AIA Tennessee Award of Merit recipient. Together, Palmer, Peavy, Stack, and Wheeler join forces to create award-winning projects that continue to help the community.

HK Architects

1216 East Main St. Suite 120, Chattanooga, TN 37408

Founded in 1999, HK Architects wants to make an impact through design. Through efficient use of resources, time, and space, the firm creates designs that improve people’s lives and respect the environment. As part of its sustainable methods, the firm makes sure to utilize natural daylight in its designs, and use the best materials and systems to preserve, restore, and build to last. 

As a reputable firm, HK Architects has built a collection of award-winning projects. One of these projects is the Southern Surgical Arts. This mixed-use project is a showcase of the firm’s excellence in design, earning the 2016 Best Design of the Year, Judges Choice award from the AIA. Inside, the building has retail and office spaces, a cosmetic surgery center, and residential units. With different activities running inside the building, the external facade offers a unified look. Using natural materials including black slate, limestone, and copper fascias, the structure is sturdy and has a modern look. The imposing exterior facade is softened by well-planned landscaping surrounding the building. Employing sustainable design methods, the firm has secured a LEED certification for the project. 

Helping maintain the company’s strong reputation is Heidi Hefferlin, AIA, LEED AP. Founder and managing partner of the firm, Hefferlin has over 30 years of industry experience. She is a proud alumnus of the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her vision for the firm is clear: to transform Chattanooga’s urban landscape through high-quality sustainable design solutions.

River Street Architecture

123 E 7th St. Suite 400, Chattanooga, TN 37402

River Street Architecture employs a holistic approach in each project. For the firm, form, function, and cost must all be considered when providing commercial architecture services. A building must be designed with the intent to perform according to the needs of the client. With LEED AP team members, these buildings are designed to protect the environment as well. The company’s sustainable efforts have gained the stamp of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), earning LEED gold certifications for 11 projects. 

Founded in 1999, the firm uses a holistic approach while offering master planning, urban design, and construction consulting services. Whether it’s a commercial, industrial, or institutional project, the firm’s well-rounded approach assures successful project completion. To succeed, collaboration is also important for the firm. Efficient collaboration starts with the effective leadership of Rob Fowler, AIA. A graduate of the University of Tennessee in 1981, Fowler has over 22 years of experience in the industry. The majority of his time has been spent creating outstanding commercial and institutional structures. His extensive experience includes working with Boeing and NASA. 

With such a strong leadership, it is no wonder that River Street Architecture is well-recognized by the press. Recently, the firm has graced Nooga Today, Times Free Press, and The Chattanoogan. The firm is commended for its successful projects, too. In 2016, it gained the Honorable Mention Award from AIA Chattanooga for its work on Holiday Inn in Chattanooga. For the project, the firm has created a structure that stays true to the Holiday Inn brand. It has designed a warm, inviting hotel that gives comfort and pleasure to its guests.

Franklin Architects

142 N. Market St., Chattanooga, TN 37405

Established in 1933, Franklin Architects is the most senior firm on this list. Running for over 88 years, the firm has remained one of the top architects in Chattanooga for its dedication to exceptional customer service. The firm recognizes that each client has different requirements, and thus the solution for each project is to provide a tailor-made design process for each project. For its creatively customized work, the firm has earned the respect of its peers, the press, and its clients. The AIA Middle Tennessee has given the firm the Honor Award; publications including Chattanooga Times Free Press, Hamilton County Herald, and Fire Apparatus Magazine have featured the firm. 

Serving clients in Chattanooga and other states, the firm has provided a wide range of services for mixed-use, education, and healthcare projects. One of these projects is the Dentist Office in Chattanooga. For the facade, the firm has chosen a traditional home style, offering patients a warm, inviting feeling before entering the clinic. Indoors, clients are welcomed by the clinic’s modern, clean, professional look. With large windows and adequate lighting fixtures in the receiving area, the firm has created a relaxing atmosphere. This stress-free atmosphere is carried through each room where dental procedures happen. 

The firm’s thoughtful designs are created by its professional team that is headed by Robert A. Franklin, AIA. Franklin is an architecture graduate of Auburn University. Working in the industry for over 37 years, Franklin influences his team to put their skills and passion to exceed client expectations.

MBI Companies

651 E. Fourth St. Suite 500, Chattanooga, TN 37403

Over the last three decades, MBI Companies has created sensational designs that have impressed many. The firm is a two-time winner of AIA East Tennessee’s People’s Choice Award. This design award selects the firm that has created an exceptional project, voted by many in different marketing avenues. Its stand-out designs are created by the firm’s talented team headed by William Steverson, AIA. A University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign alumnus, Steverson uses his 28 years of industry experience to guide his team. To produce top-notch designs, Steverson hires people who are leaders, experts, and excellent problem solvers. With a strong team, the firm consistently creates the best designs that capture everyone’s attention. 

Such exceptional design is seen in the Keller Williams Realty Office Renovation. The firm provided architecture, engineering, and interior design services for this project. Renovating a 50-year-old structure, the firm redesigned the site into a contemporary office with an industrial, trendy look. The interior office spaces and conference rooms have a fresh, hip look that creates a positive office environment. Outdoors, the main entrance has red and black highlights, echoing the company’s corporate logo. Surrounding the building are spacious pathways and parking spaces, offering convenience to the company’s employees.

Pfeffer Torode Architecture

1426 Williams St., Chattanooga, TN 37408

Pfeffer Torode Architecture describes itself as a fellowship. It is composed of more than thirty principled architects and designers that collaborate to produce inspiring places and spaces. Through their collective experience, these experts create the best commercial, residential, and hospitality spaces in Tennessee and across the globe. For their skills, the firm has received the Honor Award from AIA Tennessee. The firm has also been featured in several publications including the Rue Daily, Citizen Tribune, and News Break. 

Established in 2010, the firm has created many exquisite, sophisticated designs. An example of such design is its work on TransCard. A software firm, TransCard needed an architecture firm that could transform a historic building into a modern office space. Upon completion, Pfeffer Torode Architecture exceeded client expectations. Providing architecture, planning, and programming services for the project, the firm added common areas into the design and built a new staircase that connected all four floors of the office. With open office spaces, lounges, and a fitness center, the building now stands as a modern space that nurtures a healthy working environment. 

Pfeffer Torode Architecture has outstanding leadership that guides it into success. Principals Jamie Pfeffer, Jonathan Torode, and Scott Torode combine their expertise and years of experience to lead the team in creating designs that influence people’s way of life.

Neuhoff Taylor Architects

699 Dallas Rd., Chattanooga, TN 37405

Founded in 1980, Neuhoff Taylor Architects bases its success on client satisfaction. For the firm, it lasted in the industry for over four decades because it has stayed true to its goal: to deliver the highest level of customer service. The firm’s top-notch services have earned clients’ trust and landed it over 2,000 projects. Included in these projects is Suds Carwash located in Chattanooga. The main feature of the project is the driveway. To facilitate a good traffic flow for customers, the firm carefully planned the project’s layout. Between the pathways are two buildings: an enclosed one for car wash services and an open-air structure for free vacuum services. Through this well-thought-out design, the firm hopes to help Suds Carwash succeed as a business. 

Based in Chattanooga, Neuhoff Taylor Architects has expanded over the last 41 years. At the moment, it serves clients in over 21 states. Its success has reached different publications including Chattanooga Times Free Press, FR 24 News, and Nooga Today. Proud of this success are principals J. Patrick Neuhoff and Randall P. Taylor. Both AIA members, Neuhoff and Taylor have a combined 76 years of experience in the field. Having worked in the industry for decades, the two have vast experience in a range of projects including commercial, educational, and religious facilities. Neuhoff and Taylor are proud alumni of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

Elemi Architects

812 Central Ave., Chattanooga, TN 37403

Founded in 2006, Elemi Architects is a specialist in urban design. In 2012, it earned two awards from the River City Company’s Urban Design Challenge including the Audience Choice Award. As an expert in urban design, the firm is deeply invested in the development of its home base, Chattanooga. To nurture the city’s growth, the firm employs sustainable practices and forward-thinking solutions in its projects. It seeks the input of clients to make sure it designs spaces that enhance people’s lives as well as the community. 

A sample of its impact improving a community through design is The Terminal BrewHouse. In this project, the firm used its expertise to restore an old building and convert it into a neighborhood pub. At the owner’s request, the firm included a green roof system in the design. The firm also created framework plans involving the pub’s kitchen and bar. With respect to the history of the building, the firm has transformed the space into a cozy pub that serves as a gathering space for the community. 

Many have taken notice of the firm’s contribution to Chattanooga’s urban scene. The Scout Guide, Chattanooga’s Business Magazine, and Edge Magazine are some publications impressed by the firm’s work. Guiding the firm in continuously creating a good impression is owner Matt Winget. Winget is a University of Tennessee-Knoxville – Architecture alumnus. With over 16 years of industry experience, Winget has dedicated 15 years to architecture and urban desire.

Surface Architecture & Design

206 Manufacturers Rd., Chattanooga, TN 37405

Established in 2013, Surface Architecture & Design is a boutique-style firm that specializes in small residential and commercial projects. For the firm, handling small projects is an advantage. This gives the firm and its team of designers the chance to work closely with the clients and put great attention to detail. Through this approach, the firm creates impactful design that meets client demands. For commercial spaces, the firm has designed for restaurants, retail shops, and offices. In Chattanooga, it has provided architecture services for Slick’s Burgers. Featured in Cooking Channel TV in 2017, this family-friendly restaurant offers casual dining to its customers. Hungry customers can either enjoy their food in the restaurant’s diner-themed interior or dine al fresco by the restaurant’s yard. In this project, the firm showcases how simple design can be effective.

Aside from Cooking Channel TV, Surface Architecture & Design’s work has appeared in other media spaces such as City Scope Magazine Homes & Design, twice for its wide variety of skills. Besides building, the firm is able to assist clients with planning, interior and graphic design, as well as brand identity and logo design. Headed by Michael Bridges, AIA, LEED AP, the firm focuses on green design as well. Bridges has over 12 years of experience in the industry and is a graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. 


  • Shahe Demirdjian

    Shahe is an Editor at General Contractors with around four years of experience as a writer and editor in the construction space. Shahe has always had a huge interest in commercial/residential construction and real estate. On top of his experience at General Contractors, he has two years of experience as a Construction Partner Specialist at BuildZoom and six years of experience as a licensed real estate agent. In his work, he takes advantage of his expertise to take complex technical jargon from those realms and transform them into accessible, engaging content, blending his business administration expertise with a degree from Arizona State University with his experiential insights. Expertise: Architecture, Home Design and Build, Home Remodeling Key Highlights: Arizona Real Estate - Licensed Salesperson Education: Arizona State University - Bachelors in Business Administration