Framework for Design Excellence: Design for Water

Good design conserves and improves the quality of water as a precious resource.

  • How does the project use water wisely, addressing efficiency and consumption while matching water quality to appropriate use?
  • How can the project’s water systems maintain function during emergencies or disruptions?
  • How does the project handle rainfall and stormwater responsibly?
  • How does the project contribute to a healthy regional watershed?

Focus topics

  • Climate change, water resilience, and equity
  • Potable water efficiency 
  • Outdoor water use reduction
  • Rainwater/stormwater use and management 
  • Process water reuse 
  • Reuse of greywater and/or blackwater 
  • Net zero water building (NZWB) 

If you can do only one (or a few) thing(s):

  • ZERO CARBON: Incorporate water reuse and reduction strategies and understand the relationship between energy, water, and carbon.  
  • RESILIENT: Project future climate conditions and establish strategies to manage water at the building and site, including effects on the watershed. 
  • EQUITABLE: Identify stakeholders impacted by water use decisions and take steps to correct historic inequities. 
  • HEALTHY: Protect water sources for the site, downstream communities, and future consumers. Understand the water quality delivered to the site and emitted from the site.  

    Additional information

    This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published and distributed with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering professional services. If professional advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought.

    AIA does not sponsor or endorse any enterprise, whether public or private, operated for profit. Further, no AIA officer, director, committee member, or employee, or any of its component organizations in his or her official capacity, is permitted to approve, sponsor, endorse, or do anything that may be deemed or construed to be an approval, sponsorship, or endorsement of any material of construction or any method or manner of handling, using, distributing, or dealing in any material or product.

    Image credits

    Marine Education Center at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

    Casey Dunn


    Bruce Damonte

    COTE Daniels1

    Nic Lehoux

    Curving room on an entrance with an awning at dusk with lit front doors and clerestory.

    Prakash Patel