Framework for Design Excellence: Design for Economy

Good design adds value for owners, occupants, the community, and the planet, regardless of project size and budget.

  • How do we provide abundance while living within our means?
  • How do we design robust projects that enhance economic, natural, intellectual, and experiential resources?
  • How will the design choices balance cost with long-term value?
  • How can the performance of this project be improved in ways that are cost and design neutral?

Focus topics

  • Building size 
  • Material use and reuse
  • Operational requirements 
  • Financing and incentives 
  • Community links  
  • Cost estimating and value engineering

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

  • ZERO CARBON: Reuse an existing building if possible and reuse materials wherever appropriate.  
  • ZERO CARBON: Right-size the program early and keep the square footage as efficient as possible while supporting occupant experience and managing design for change.
  • RESILIENT: Identify the proposed service life for the building and create a plan to adapt to hazard risk over time.  
  • EQUITABLE: Design to support a vibrant local economy, maintaining diverse populations and supporting local resources and trades. 
  • HEALTHY: Healthier buildings = healthier people. Balance operational and maintenance requirements to improve occupant health and well-being, improve community health outcomes, and lower household health care expenses.  

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


Tom Rossiter


Tim Griffith

COTE Asilong1



Lara Swimmer