Framework for Design Excellence: Design for Resources

Good design depends on informed material selection, balancing priorities to achieve durable, safe, and healthy projects with an equitable, sustainable supply chain to minimize possible negative impacts to the planet.  

  • What factors or priorities will be considered in making material selection decisions?  
  • How are materials and products selected and designed to reduce embodied carbon and environmental impacts while enhancing building performance?  
  • How can material selection reduce hazards and support equitable labor practices in the supply chain?  
  • How does the project promote zero waste throughout its life cycle?  
  • How does the project celebrate local materials and craft?  
  • How long will the project last, and how does that affect your material?  

Focus topics:

  • Material sourcing 
  • Healthier materials
  • Embodied carbon
  • Construction, deconstruction, and demolition  
  • Zero waste operations
  • Circular economy

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

  • ZERO CARBON: Select products that reduce carbon emissions and sequester more carbon emissions than are emitted during the construction process. Consider the materials’ carbon footprint from cradle to cradle.
  • RESILIENT: Consider the durability of materials to withstand anticipated shocks and stresses.  
  • EQUITABLE: Consider the health of communities where resources are extracted, harvested, manufactured, and disposed. Select products from manufacturers that secure human rights in their own operations, positively impacting their workers and the communities where they operate. Demand product transparency.
  • HEALTHY: Simplify the building materials palette to reduce the potential for chemicals of concern and prioritize healthier materials. Select products that seek to eliminate the use of hazardous substances.

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

2020 COTE Top Ten award recipient, Etsy Headquarters, provides an area for employees and local artisans to create.

Garrett Rowland


Dror Baldinger


R.W. Kern Center by Bruner/Cott & Associates is a 2017 COTE® Top Ten recipient.

COTE Tashjian 1

Richard Brine