COTE Top Ten
Illustration: Lauren Nassef | Art Direction: Jelena Schulz

Every year, the AIA’s Committee on the Environment (COTE) awards 10 projects that exemplify both sustainable and beautiful design. The jury for 2016's COTE awards concluded their deliberations last week, and the winning projects will be announced on Earth Day.

Take a look back at how these four recipients from 2015’s COTE Top Ten either transformed or took advantage of elemental aspects of the natural world to complement and achieve their energy efficiency goals.


New Orleans BioInnovation Center by Eskew+ Dumez+Ripple and NBBJ: The differing standards of various tenants in this lab require the air to be flushed up to 10 changes per hour. Operable windows are also largely not allowed, due to specific conditions for certain experiments. But by using the returning air from offices as a diluent for the air supply of the labs, conditioned comfort can be shared with the office areas at a very reasonable energy cost. Each lab is also able to independently control its own Independent airflow and temperature controls also allow researchers to tailor their ventilation levels.


Federal Center South Building 1202 by ZGF Architects: Located on the banks of the Duwamish Waterway in Seattle, this workspace for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers converted its 4.6-acre site from 100 percent impervious to 50 percent pervious landscape. The ghosts of industry are still present in the nearby Albert Kahn–designed former Ford Motor Co. Assembly Plant and a cement plant, but the Environmental Protection Agency is cleaning up the surrounding area in an effort to increase use of the new site and bike trails.


Hughes Warehouse Adaptive Reuse by Overland Partners: Located in San Antonio, the original building was largely shielded behind a double-wythe brick wall. Opening it up to the outside world was a necessity. The architects added windows along the east and west façades and a glass curtainwall to a newly inserted courtyard. The once-ensconced building is now awash with natural light: Views to the outside are available in almost 99 percent of the floor area and 60 percent of the office floor area is within 15 feet of an operable window.


The Bullitt Center by the Miller Hull Partnership: Designed to replicate the water recycling capabilities of a Douglas fir forest, this Seattle project aims to use rainwater as the supply for 100 percent of its water needs. All of the water collected from the roof is treated and stored in a 56,000-gallon cistern as nonpotable water for the building’s operations. (Permits are out now to transform it into potable water). Even the waste is valued: Foam flush toilets and urinals deliver what is known as “blackwater” to composing units in the basement, where it is used to fertilize the nearby soil.

This article was originally featured on our sister site, ARCHITECT. For more on the COTE Top Ten, visit