The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on the Environment (COTE) has announced the 2012 COTE Top Ten Green Projects, with a mix of office buildings, education facilities, and multiple-building plans from the Pacific Northwest and the Southwest taking home the majority of annual honors. The COTE Top Ten Green Projects program celebrates structures that use a thoroughly integrated approach to architecture, natural systems, and technology to provide architectural solutions that protect and enhance the environment. The projects named each year should make a positive contribution to their communities, improve comfort for building occupants, and reduce negative environmental effects through strategies such as reuse of existing structures, connection to transit systems, low-impact and regenerative site development, energy and water conservation, use of sustainable construction materials, and designs that improve indoor air quality.

The 2012 Top Ten Green projects, in alphabetical order, are:

This year’s winners were chosen by the 2012 jury: Sue Barnett of Sue Barnett Sustainable Design in Houston; Clark S. Brockman, AIA, of SERA Architects in Portland, Ore.; Steve Dumez, FAIA, of Eskew+Dumez+Ripple in New Orleans; Laura Lee, FAIA, Hon. FRAIA, of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg; Paul Schwer of PAE Consulting Engineers in San Francisco; and Scott Shell, FAIA, of EHDD Architecture in San Francisco.

The jury was impressed that more than 30 LEED Platinum-certified projects and six net-zero-energy projects were among this year’s entrants. In reviewing the final Top Ten list, one juror remarked “This collection of projects is an example of buildings that are beautiful because they work. And they work at many different scales, and deal with a wide range of complex issues. Some issues are wholly building-performance related. Others address community and social concerns at a very high level, and integrate themselves in their respective contexts in a way that create much better outcomes overall.”  Another juror added: “A number of the projects have focused more attention to knitting back into the community and trying to strengthen the master planning or urban-planning design in significant ways to create places that where we really want to live and work. This is a profound opportunity for sustainable design moving forward. It is the true measure of sustainability—that a project becomes so embraced by its community that its value far exceeds the value of a conventionally designed building.”

The jury also praised the winning projects for taking an integrated approach to sustainable design, and one juror noted that “where some of the best projects were rigorous about documenting how they met all 10 [AIA COTE Top Ten Award] criteria, what became evident [during judging] is that they were working not only within each one, but across all of them and between them. The buildings become not a series of statistics. The metrics became living, breathing things. It wasn’t two dimensional, but very much three dimensional. One factor influenced another, and this is an advancement. It isn’t just a checklist or meeting 10 metrics or meeting LEED requirements.” The jury also praised the breadth of strategies involved in the winning projects, the consideration of end-user experience in the design process, and greater transparency in the project’s goals, strategies, and process.

For more information on each project, including extended slideshows, click on the individual projects above. The Top Ten winners will be recognized at a reception on Thursday, May 17, during the AIA National Convention and Exposition in Washington, DC. In addition, ECO-STRUCTURE will be covering the 2011 COTE Top Ten projects in depth in its July/August issue. For more information on each project, as well as a database of past Top Ten projects, visit