The Top Ten Green Design Projects

Places / May 17, 2010

It started out as an Earth Day competition for the AIA’s Committee on the Environment (COTE) fourteen years ago.

Now it’s evolved into the AIA/COTE (Committee on the Environment) Green Projects competition. Every year, as many as 100 architecture firms will submit projects to be judged on both design and sustainability.

“That’s what sets it apart from other design awards,” said Kelly Pickard, manager of strategic initiatives at the AIA in Washington. “Others may be just for design, and not sustainability, or energy efficiency and sustainability but the design element is lacking. This program is a melding of the two.”

Judging is based on ten established COTE measures of sustainable design, with each project describing in a narrative format how it addressed each measure. “A big focus is to use this as a knowledge-sharing process – for lessons learned,” Kelly said. “The winners are posted to the AIA web site.”

Particular emphasis for winning entries is placed upon integrated design collaboration, where all interested parties – architects, engineers and contractors sit down to work together from the beginning of the project. “It’s our belief that integration is the key factor in sustainability,” she said.

A panel of six judges composed of architects, engineers, clients and journalists, meets face-to-face to make the final decision each year. COTE tries to partner with a university (this year, with Rice in Houston), so that once the Top Ten has been selected, a forum for students can be held. “We can show them trends in sustainable design, and allow jury members to share their knowledge,” Kelly said.

The culmination of the yearlong process occurs at the annual conference, this year from June 10-12 in Miami. The winners will make presentations of their work, demonstrate their strategies for the program, and display in a special gallery a mixture of images and text how they incorporated COTE’s ten measures.

“It’s always a really popular spot for our attendees,” she said.

For more on the AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects, go to

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Michael Welton

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