AIA empowers architects to design a world that allows people, communities, and our planet to thrive

Chatham University Eden Hall Campus_image8_M5

The Chatham University Eden Hall Campus IS A 2017 COTE TOP TEN RECIPIENT.

Why is sustainability important?

Sustainability is a key element of the architecture profession’s approach to design in the 21st century as it tackles the compounding global challenges of resource availability, water quality and increasing pollution. It is part of an architect’s approach to protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public.  Community sustainability goals are fulfilled in large part by an architect’s ability to create practical solutions to the challenges posed by climate change, population growth and the pursuit of more connected, healthier communities.

AIA's commitment to sustainability

We have a long history promoting sustainability in architecture. From the publication of Environmental Design: Research and Practice in 1971 to the creation of the Committee on the Environment, COTE, in 1990 and connections to the Historic Resources Committee established in 1857, the Institute has long been a leader in sustainable design. Our commitment to a better built environment continues in our current programs and planning for what’s to come.

last updated June 12, 2018.

Issue Brief

Architect's Primer on Renewable Energy

Now more than ever, architects are called to design high performance buildings. This guide provides a starting point for architects to meet their clients’ goals and contribute to a more sustainable distributed electric grid by planning and designing for renewable energy sources.

ROI of High Performance Design

Buildings designed with high-performance elements reduce negative impacts to the environment and improve the health and well-being of occupants. As awareness of the benefits of high-performance design grows, demand has also grown in this sector.


AIA 2030 Commitment by the numbers

An overview of the progress that projects and firms are making towards greater energy efficiency and the profession's 2030 targets.


Design for Adaptability, Deconstruction, and Reuse

Spaces that are designed to be flexible make reacting to crisis easier. This guide redefines what it means to be adaptable.

TEOP for Architects

The new TEOP for Architects guide introduces how architects can use the Tenant Energy Optimization Program (TEOP) process to ensure they are harnessing the energy-conservation potential of existing buildings, saving clients money, and remaining at the forefront of sustainable design.


Materials Pledge

This pledge has been developed with a vision of a holistic approach to the way architects and designers evaluate the products and finishes that we specify.The Architecture & Design Materials Pledge was developed to inspire a shift in how we evaluate the products and finishes that we specify on a daily basis. Participants commit to five overarching statements that will lead to more intentional product specification across their portfolios over time.

2020 COTE® Top Ten Awards

The 2020 COTE® Top Ten program highlights projects that meet the AIA Committee on the Environment's rigorous criteria for social, economic, and ecologic value.

How To

Framework for Design Excellence

A resource, accessible to all architects, that closes the information gap to designing high performing, equitable, beautiful buildings

Design for Equitable Communities AIAU Course

Learn how you can create more equitable places through design processes and strategies.

Take the course


Renovate, Retrofit, Reuse

Prepare your firm to take advantage of an increasing number of retrofit projects to generate positive economic, health, and environmental benefits with this guide that includes data, guiding principles, and case studies.

AIA COTE® Top Ten for Students

The COTE® Top Ten awards are the industry’s best-known awards program for sustainable design excellence.

Healthier Materials Protocol

The new AIA Healthier Materials Protocol was created to provide clear, practical methods and tools to navigate materials and effectively translate awareness to practice. The document provides a stepwise method for setting healthier materials goal and criteria definitions, product selection, tracking, and specification, no matter the size and scope of the project.


Architect’s Guide to Building Performance

The best way to improve performance and know how your building will perform is through energy modeling early and often. The new Architect’s Guide to Building Performance helps architects better integrate building performance simulation into their design process.

Issue Brief

Leveraging Energy Transparency

The move towards data transparency and disclosure includes the building industry, specifically in regard to their energy use. This brief gives an overview of the energy transparency movement, the opportunity it presents, and strategies for architects to improve building performance.

COTE Super Spreadsheet

Download the tool to help you understand and calculate metrics associated with the Framework for Design Excellence in order to analyze and improve your project.

Download now


Modular and Off-Site Construction Guide

From quality and safety to schedule efficiency and sustainability, modular building has a lot to offer owners and project teams. Learn more about the variety of benefits of modular construction with the new AIA Modular and Off-Site Construction Guide.

How To

AIA Resilience and Adaptation Certificate Series

Do you want to integrate resilience into the design services your firm offers? The Resilience and Adaptation series is your answer. This exclusive multi-course series covers hazard mitigation, community resilience, and adaptation. Take all courses to learn best practices for mitigating risk for hazards, shocks, and stresses and adapting to changing conditions. Perfect for mid-career professionals.


How to talk to clients about materials transparency

Including materials health and environmental priorities in early conversations can be a critical step to ensuring a project is not only designed well but creates long-term benefits for occupants.

Where we stand: climate action

AIA asserts that architects play a vital role in combating climate change. We accept these challenges. We call on policymakers to join with us in this effort, and we uphold the following principles.

Four ways architects can fight climate change

We have less than 12 years to slow down global warming. Here’s what you can do.

Design & Health Research Consortium

Members of the AIA Design & Health Research Consortium are expected to improve the usefulness and quality of research linking design to health outcomes through deliberative partnership with other entities.

Prioritizing the future

The Sustainability Leadership Opportunity Scan charted a path forward for AIA to implement strategies to address each of the four priority areas; to support bold action at the member, component, and national levels; and to expand sustainability partnerships, advocacy, and educational programs.


Disaster Assistance Handbook

The third edition of this handbook will help you understand your role in preparing for and responding to disasters.

Social impact

Addressing global climate change through AIA’s 2030 Commitment

As the world's urban population grows, American architects must expand their influence and preach the value of a performance-based design process.

Image credits

Chatham University Eden Hall Campus_image8_M5

Bruce Damonte