'The Bar Has Been Raised'-AIA-COTE Announces 2011 Top Ten

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The American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment (AIA-COTE) has announced its Top Ten Green Projects for 2011. “The bar has been raised” since the Top Ten competition began, noted members of the jury. “Now we want to see diverse project types, projects that resolve urban issues or social issues, projects that change occupant behavior.”

The jurors also noted particular interest in innovative water management techniques, passive survivability, urban infill, and community improvement. “The architect is in a way taking on the role of a developer, and they are changing city policy about what is acceptable,” concluded juror Joshua Aidlin, AIA. Other members of the Top Ten jury for 2011 were: Mary Guzowski; Kevin Kampschroer; Mary Ann Lazarus, FAIA; Jennifer Sanguinetti, P.E.; and Lauren Yarmuth.

Profiles of these projects are available by clicking each project name below (full profiles available by subscription), or at www.aiatopten.org.

Cherokee Studios: A mixed-use urban infill project, this building features a green roof and provides stormwater filtration to help prevent ocean pollution. A system of perforated screens allows daylight and outdoor air to permeate the apartments while also providing shade as residents desire.

First Unitarian Society Meeting House: This addition to a historic meetinghouse designed by Frank Lloyd Wright takes the form of an arc to counterbalance the triangles of the original structure. Stormwater runoff from the original meetinghouse has been flooding neighboring properties for years, but the green roof and pervious landscaping of the addition have solved this longstanding problem.

Greensburg Schools: After a tornado destroyed almost every structure in Greensburg, Kansas, the community chose to rebuild using sustainable strategies. For the schools, that meant a major emphasis on daylighting and indoor air quality to improve the learning environment. The project also features stormwater capture and reuse, along with a constructed wetland for onsite wastewater treatment.

High Tech High Chula Vista: Students at this California high school learn by doing—both indoors and out. The design of the school supports its educational philosophy and methodology by allowing easy access between interior and exterior and integrating built and natural environments. The site features bioswales and rainwater catchment and reuse along with natural ventilation, ample daylight, and a photovoltaic array.

Livestrong Foundation: This adaptive reuse of an old warehouse in a working-class area of Austin, Texas centers around a wide-open floor plan while also providing small, flexible work spaces built of salvaged wood. The building aims to revitalize the area while maintaining community connectedness and a sense of place.

LOTT Clean Water Alliance: The large water feature that greets visitors to this project is not just pretty: it is essential to the educational function of the building, which teaches local residents about water treatment and reuse. In addition to onsite wastewater treatment, the project also features green roofs, wetland habitat, and native vegetation.

NREL Research Support Facility: The largest building in the country targeting net-zero energy, this facility at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory makes its own energy with onsite photovoltaics and uses a transpired solar collector to heat ventilation air. Rain gardens, permeable pavement, and bioswales work with the natural terrain to help manage rainwater runoff.

OS House: This single-family home fills in a vacant urban lot within walking distance of shopping, recreation, and public transportation. Photovoltaics and solar water heat provide the bulk of the family’s relatively modest energy needs, and a variety of stormwater management strategies were crucial to the project, since it sits on a bluff just above Lake Michigan.

Step Up on 5th: Affordable, mixed-use apartment buildings do not usually focus on sustainable strategies, but the designers of this project set out to show it could be done. Using daylighting, strategic light filtration, and cross-ventilation, these 46 studio apartments provide energy- and water-efficient housing and support services for homeless and mentally disabled people in Santa Monica, California.

Vancouver Convention Centre West: A six-acre green roof is the centerpiece of this massive waterfront project, which also includes a constructed reef, onsite wastewater treatment, and a seawater-based heat pump system. Built on a remediated brownfield, the center provides habitat for wildlife and outdoor gathering spaces for people.

Disclosure: BuildingGreen, Inc. provides editorial and technical services for the online submissions and presentation of the AIA-COTE Top Ten.

– Paula Melton


Comments (2)

1 AIA Top 10 - No East Coast pr posted by Christopher Schaffner on 04/14/2011 at 10:36 am

Nothing east of Wisconsin, and only two projects east of the Mississippi? I think AIA needs to expand their horizons a bit.

2 Beyond Moments of Brilliants posted by Barbra Batshalom on 04/15/2011 at 05:26 am

I always find the AIA top 10 inspiring and fun. The projects feel like jewels; moments of brilliance that we can look to and say "that's what it looks like to do it right!".

I want to point out though, that these kind of achievements don't happen in a vacuum, and recognize the larger commitment and mindset-shift that they really represent.

I don't know all of these firms well, but from the ones I do know - sustainability has been institutionalized into their systems, processes and organizational culture to a degree that actually means this 'highlighted' project is not a rare occurance but a symptom of a greater commitment to quality and consistency at an organizational level.

I hope the architectural community can really appreciate that these are likely not one-hit-wonders, but the face of the future, and that in our life-time - more and more firms will take seriously the need to institutionalize systems and processes and that beautiful projects like these become mainstream and the awards keep evolving to a whole new level!

Thanks for sharing this great body of work and congrats to all the winners!

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April 14, 2011