The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and its Committee on the Environment (COTE) have announced the 2017 Top Ten Awards, which honours some of the best sustainable design projects to come out of the United States this year.

Now in its twenty-first year, the COTE Top Ten Awards identify projects that excel in good design and environmental performance. The submissions were assessed this year based on a revised set of measures. The criteria were updated to reflect a renewed focus on themes such as health, comfort, resilience and economy. The new awards framework also required submissions to provide metrics so that design teams could share how they were measuring performance.

The COTE Top Ten Plus award, which has previously recognised a single project from the pool of past award recipients, will now become a designation among the Top Ten projects. Winners will be selected based on how they demonstrate exceptional post-occupancy performance and lessons learned.


Brock Environmental Center: Virginia Beach, Virginia/ SmithGroupJJR

The Brock Environmental Center is a hub for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Hampton Roads office. The centre supports their education, advocacy and restoration initiatives, and is designed to express CBF’s mission to protect one of the nation’s most valuable and threatened natural resources, the Chesapeake Bay. CBF aspired to manifest true sustainability in the project, and to create a landmark that transcends notions of “doing less harm” towards a reality where architecture can create a positive, regenerative impact on both the environment and society. The center surpasses LEED Green Building Council certifications to achieve zero-net-CO2 emissions, zero waste, and a Living Building Challenge certification from the International Living Future Institute.


Bristol Community College John J. Sbrega Health and Science Building: Fall River Massachusetts/ Sasaki

Bristol set ambitious goals of making its new science building not only elegant and inviting, but also a model of sustainability. The 50,000-square-foot building sets the standard as the first ZNE academic science building in America's northeast. Providing hands-on learning opportunities and care to underserved populations, its program accommodates instructional labs and support space for field biology, biotech, microbiology, and chemistry; nursing simulation labs; clinical laboratory science and medical assisting labs; dental hygiene labs; and a teaching clinic. The project team took a holistic approach to the design and construction of the Sbrega Health and Science Building, and uncovered innovative ways to eliminate the use of fossil fuels, increase efficiency, and dramatically reduce demand.

Chatham University Eden Hall Campus: Richland Township, Pennsylvania/ Mithun

After receiving the donation of the 388-acre Eden Hall Farm north of Pittsburgh, Chatham University came up with the audacious goal of creating the world’s first net-positive campus. Home of the Falk School of Sustainability, Eden Hall Campus generates more energy than it uses. It functions as a water resource, produces food, recycles nutrients, and supports habitat and healthy soils while developing the next generation of environmental stewards. Linked buildings, landscapes and infrastructure support an active and experiential research environment while the new building forms, outdoor gathering spaces and integrated artwork complement and interpret natural site systems. All in all, the project represents cutting-edge sustainable strategies.

Discovery Elementary School, Arlington Public Schools: Arlington, Virginia/ VMDO Architects

Discovery Elementary School is the largest zero-energy school in the US. The challenge presented to the team was to integrate a 98,000-square-foot building into a residential neighbourhood while keeping the entire PV array on the roof in-tact. By terracing the mass into a south-facing hill, the project met local goals for scale, community goals for preservation of open recreation spaces, and global goals for ideal orientation for solar generation. The resulting school offers a positive example of a solution to the global crisis of climate change. At the same time, the site benefits students by giving them the sense of being active participants in those solutions.

Manhattan Districts 1/2/5 Garage & Spring Street Salt Shed: New York City/ Dattner Architects and WXY architecture + urban design

The Garage and Salt Shed embody the ideal role of civic infrastructure by combining innovative architectural design with sustainability and sensitivity to the urban context. The building is wrapped in a custom-perforated double-skin façade that reduces solar gain while allowing daylight and views in personnel areas. The 1.5-acre extensive green roof reduces heat-island effect and promotes biodiversity. The roof also filters waste steam condensate and rainwater, allowing it to be reused for truck wash. The two projects are being used as benchmarks for NYC’s Active Design program, which promotes the health and fitness of occupants through building design.

Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University: Washington, D.C./ Payette and Ayers Saint Gross

The Milken Institute School of Public Health at GWU embeds core public health values: movement, light/air, greenery, connection to place, social interaction and community engagement. The project takes the form of a highly unconventional, LEED Platinum building on an urban campus in the heart of the nation’s capital. Research offices, classrooms and study areas are clustered around an array of multi-floor void spaces that open the building’s dense core to daylight and views. An irresistible, sky-lit staircase connects all eight levels and encourages physical activity. The pod-like classrooms are set in from the perimeter so that informal study and social interaction spaces overlook the bustling traffic circle.

Ng Teng Fong General Hospital & Jurong Community Hospital; Singapore/ HOK, USA; CPG, Singapore; Studio 505, Australia

The Green Mark Platinum NTFGH is part of Singapore’s first medical campus to combine continuing care, from outpatient to post-acute care. Based on passive principles, the performance-based design supports resource efficiency, health, and well-being. Seventy per cent of the facility is naturally ventilated, (82 per cent of inpatient beds). Unlike its Singaporean peers, NTFGH provides every patient with an adjacent operable window to allow daylight and views. NTFGH also incorporates parks, green roofs and vertical plantings throughout the campus, making it an oasis in the midst of a dense city. The building uses 38 per cent less energy than the average Singaporean hospital and 69 per cent less than a typical U.S. hospital.

NOAA Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center: Honolulu/ HOK with Ferraro Choi & WSP

Located on a national historic landmark site on Oahu’s Ford Island, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Inouye Regional Center features the adaptive reuse of two World War II-era airplane hangars. These are now linked by a new steel-and-glass building. The hangars inspired beautifully simple design solutions for how the center would use air, water and light. The LEED Gold complex accommodates 800 people in a research and office facility that integrates NOAA’s mission of “science, service and stewardship” with Hawaii’s cultural traditions and ecology. The interior environment, which is based on principles of campus design, creates a central gathering place.

R.W. Kern Center: Amherst, Massachusetts/ Bruner/Cott & Associates

Hampshire College’s R.W. Kern Center is a 17,000-square-foot multi-purpose facility designed to meet the Living Building Challenge. As the gateway to the campus, Kern includes classrooms, offices, a café and a gallery space. The building is self-sustaining: it generates its own energy, captures its own water and processes its own waste. The Kern Center is the result of an integrated design process and the team's wholehearted commitment to the environmental mission. The project demonstrates Hampshire’s dedication to the highest level of sustainability and stewardship. It also embodies the college’s mission of critical inquiry, active leadership and hands-on learning.

Stanford University Central Energy Facility: Stanford, California/ ZGF Architects LLP

At the heart of Stanford University’s transformational, campus-wide energy system is a new, technologically-advanced central energy facility. The system replaces a 100 per cent fossil-fuel-based cogeneration plant with primarily electrical power – 65 per cent of which comes from renewable sources – and a first-of-its-kind heat recovery system. This system significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and fossil fuel consumption and water use. The facility comprises a net-positive-energy administrative building, a heat-recovery chiller plant, a cooling and heating plant, a service yard and a new campus-wide main electrical substation. Designed to sensitively integrate into the surrounding campus, the architectural expression is one of lightness, transparency and sustainability to express the facility’s purpose.