These four COTE Top Ten Award recipients represent design excellence

Stanford Energy Facility - COTE Top Ten winner

The Stanford University Central Energy Facility, the recipient of a 2017 COTE Top Ten Award.

AIA's sustainability leaders explain what made these previous COTE Top Ten Award recipients so special

Projects that receive COTE Top Ten Awards are recognized for their integration of design excellence with environmental performance. These projects also speak to all aspects of sustainability, from carbon and resilience to health and well-being. There are numerous reasons each project excels; to illustrate the wide range of recognized projects, in advance of the 2018 COTE Top Ten Awards submission deadline, four of AIA's sustainability leaders have chosen specific examples that highlight exceptional work in sustainable design.

Stanford University Central Energy Facility

Architect: ZGF Architects LLP with associated firm Affiliated Engineers, Inc.

By Heather Gayle Holdridge, Assoc. AIA, sustainability director at Lake|Flato Architects and co-chair of the AIA 2030 Commitment

I regard the AIA COTE Top Ten as the most prestigious awards program in the profession because it demonstrates that architecture can seamlessly integrate client vision, design excellence, and building performance. COTE Top Ten projects are recognized because sustainability wasn’t seen as a compromise in the building design; it actually enhanced the client vision and user experience.

The Stanford University Central Energy Facility typifies this; I appreciate the team’s approach to taking a utilitarian project that is typically hidden and putting it on display, allowing its function to be understood and appreciated. The university recently completed a transition from powering their campus with fossil fuels to grid-sourced electricity, and this facility represents that shift in thinking from conventional energy efficiency to carbon-neutral operations.

This project includes a net-positive administrative building with classrooms and meeting spaces in addition to the functional plants. Passive responses are used throughout the architecture, leveraging the region’s wonderfully mild climate and creating work environments that are connected to the outdoors. The programming, combined with expressive architecture and systems integration, effectively makes the project part of the pedagogy on campus. As such, Stanford University demonstrates leadership in operations while fulfilling its educational mission.

Chatham University Eden Hall Campus, the recipient of a 2017 COTE Top Ten Award.

Chatham University Eden Hall Campus

Architect: Mithun

By Thomas Fisher, Assoc. AIA, co-chair, AIA Design and Health Leadership Group and professor at the University of Minnesota

Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus, winner of a 2017 COTE Top Ten Award, shows how inseparable health and sustainability have become. Designed by Mithun, whose partner Bert Gregory sits on the AIA’s Design and Health Leadership Group board, the campus’s buildings illustrate the many ways that architecture contributes to human health and wellbeing. This “living lab for healthy sustainable living” encourages students and staff:

  • to walk and bike to class or to local amenities, with a Walk Score of 100;
  • to stay physically active year-round, with a sizable gymnasium and outdoor paths conveniently located for students’ use;
  • to eat healthy foods, with food production on site as part of a fully certified organic farm;
  • to participate in social activities, with ample space devoted to informal gatherings and performances;
  • to avoid allergic reactions, with mold-resistant and non-emitting building materials;
  • and to have healthy circadian rhythms, with ample daylight and views of the natural environment.

The campus’s impact goes beyond human health and well-being. It also provides healthy habitat for other species on its 388-acre property north of Pittsburgh and healthy soil for the plant life and crops that grow there. As Chatham alumnus Rachel Carson once said, “In nature nothing exists alone.”

The West Branch of the Berkeley Public Library, the recipient of a 2016 COTE Top Ten Award.

West Branch of the Berkeley Public Library

Architect: Harley Ellis Devereaux

By Margaret Montgomery, FAIA, principal at NBBJ and 2017 chair of AIA’s Energy Leadership Group

This is a beautiful net positive library on one of the main streets of Berkeley. The design refers back to the prototypical libraries of the 19th century: tall spaces, daylit reading rooms, and a sense of quiet and simplicity.

The library is designed to make the most of the passive resources of the site—daylight, fresh air and solar energy—in creating a simple building crafted to be the “system” enabling zero net energy performance. A solar chimney is incorporated into the main street front façade, enabling prevailing ocean breezes to supply natural ventilation without street noise. Skylights ensure a light-filled comfortable reading room. Solar thermal panels provide a radiant “boost” to thermal comfort and photovoltaics provide enough energy to exceed building electricity usage.

Zero net energy—boldly proposed by the architects during the interview process as a demonstration of Berkeley’s new Climate Action Plan—is a triumph for this project, enabled primarily by a designer’s philosophy that has fully integrated performance with design excellence. In doing so, the team delivered a public space on a tight public bid budget that will have lifelong fiscal stewardship benefits, and a delightful one that will endure the test of time.

E+ // 226-232 Highland Street Townhouses, the recipient of a 2015 COTE Top Ten Award.

E+ // 226-232 Highland Street Townhouses

Architect: ISA with associated firm Urbanica Design

By Pamela Sams, AIA, Southeast Design Realization Leader at Gensler and chair of the Building Performance Knowledge Community

This COTE Top Ten-winning project was completed under the City of Boston’s E+ Green Building Program, a pilot initiative to develop energy-positive sustainable housing. The project was the first project to be completed under the program and was selected through a design competition. It consists of four town homes in the Roxbury neighborhood, each at approximately 1850 square feet. Three of the units are at market value; one is an affordable subsidized unit.

The goal under the E+ program was to create energy-positive sustainable homes in underserved areas of the city. The design team consisted of ISA and Urbanica Design as the architects; Engineering Design Build and VGNA were the engineers. The team was able to achieve its energy goals by utilizing passive design strategies to reduce the heating and cooling load, which reduces the energy required to run the active systems. The team increased the R value of the enclosure, used triple-glazed windows, and reduced air infiltration to the Passivhaus standard.

At every phase, sustainability was the primary driver for each design decision. An iterative process of energy modeling—using REM/Rate software—tested and refined the energy performance of multiple design solutions during the concept and pre-construction phases. The LEED certification process required thorough performance testing during construction to ensure that the finished product would perform as per the design. The construction cost was 15 percent more than a comparable project but it has a 75 percent reduction in energy use and to date, a net electricity production of 26,186 kWh.

Submit now for the 2018 COTE Top Ten Awards; submissions are due on January 17.

Image credits

Stanford Energy Facility - COTE Top Ten winner

Matthew Anderson

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