Framework for Design Excellence: Design for Discovery

Every project presents a unique opportunity to apply lessons learned from previous projects and gather information to refine the design and construction process. 

  • How can the design process foster a long-term relationship between designers, users, and operators to ensure design intentions are realized and building performance can improve over time? 
  • How are performance data and experiential stories shared, even if the findings fall short of the vision?  
  • How are lessons learned through construction administration shared to project teams? 
  • What strategies promote a sense of discovery and delight? 

Focus topics

  • Leveraging learning for future projects  
  • Knowledge sharing and lessons learned
  • Occupant engagement 
  • Post-occupancy evaluations 
  • Design that influences behavior 

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

  • ZERO CARBON: Conduct post-occupancy assessments to evaluate achievement of the project's carbon goals. Advocate for carbon reduction in projects to community stakeholders, local government, and authorities having jurisdiction.  
  • RESILIENT: Conduct post-occupancy assessments to evaluate achievement of the project's resilience goals. Study the building performance under less-than-ideal conditions, such as disaster events. Does it provide passive survivability, continuity of operations, or serve as a community resource? Monitor and suggest improvements to adaptation plans prior to and after disaster events.  
  • EQUITABLE: Conduct post-occupancy assessments to evaluate achievement of the project's equity goals.  
  • HEALTHY: Conduct post-occupancy assessments to evaluate achievement of the project's human health and well-being goals. Leverage what you learn to inform future projects.  

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

COTE 2017_17

Alan Karchmer & VMDO Architects


Robert Benson

Roof garden at dusk with small pyramid allowing for light into the space below. There is a lit building behind and two individuals sitting in the foreground.

Ngoc Doan / STIMSON

COTE Oregon1

Christian Columbres Photographer