AIA Announces 2020 COTE Top Ten Winners

The AIA Committee on the Environment announced the 2020 COTE Top Ten Awards. The COTE Top Ten Awards is the industry’s best-known award program for sustainable design excellence. Each year, ten innovative projects are recognized for their integration of design excellence with environmental performance. Here are the top 10 winners:

Austin Central Library

Located in downtown Austin, Texas, and overlooking Shoal Creek and Lady Bird Lake, the new Austin Central Library is a building shaped by light and designed to respond to the context of its place. Before design began, the project team set aspirational sustainability and design metrics for the project. Two primary sustainability goals for the library were determined: It would be the most daylit library in the country, and it would serve as a water conservation model for buildings in the region.

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U.S. Land Port of Entry, Columbus, New Mexico

The project is a remote port of entry in the Chihuahuan Desert adjacent to Puerto Palomas, Mexico. Best known for its frontier history and Pancho Villa’s brief incursion, this border crossing now accommodates daily pedestrians, private vehicles, commercial (primarily agricultural) goods, and 800-plus school children who cross each day to go to school in the United States.

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Environmental Nature Center and Preschool

In 2008, the firm designed the 8,535-square-foot Environmental Nature Center (ENC), which focuses on providing quality education through hands-on experience with nature. Through simple and cost-effective design strategies, the center was certified as the first LEED Platinum building in Orange County, California, and has operated at net zero since it opened, serving the community as an educational tool for sustainability.

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Etsy Headquarters

The largest Living Building Challenge Petal-Certified building in New York City, Etsy’s new headquarters set a new standard for the company. Every design decision was approached with consideration for the long-term health of the company, its employees, the community, and the larger ecosystem. Rather than building anew or occupying a generic tenant space in a corporate building, Etsy chose to adapt a 200,000-square-foot, turn-of-the-century, industrial building in Dumbo, Brooklyn, formerly used as a printing press for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. This decision significantly conserved material resources and preserved a valuable cultural resource for the community.

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Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice

The redesign maintains and enhances the building’s original character while significantly improving functionality, transparency, and accessibility. Many spaces, finishes, and furnishings were redesigned to be seamless with what already existed. The LEED Platinum renewal also modernizes the structure with New York City safety code and New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission requirements.

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John W. Olver Design Building

Bringing together the previously dispersed Departments of Architecture, Building Construction Technology, and Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning, the John W. Olver Design Building fosters multidisciplinary collaboration and expressively integrates construction, landscape architecture, and building technology. It exemplifies the University of Massachusetts’ commitment to sustainable and innovative design with its LEED Gold certification and demonstration of emerging wood construction technologies.

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Keller Center – Harris School of Public Policy

Leaders of the Harris School of Public Policy sought preservation and restoration of a midcentury masterpiece for their new home on the University of Chicago’s south campus. The Commission on Chicago Landmarks identified the Edward Durell Stone design in 1963 as contributing to the historic district of the Midway Plaisance—the spine of the 1893 Columbian Exposition. The transformational redesign integrates policy-inspired solutions to better connect with the community, place policy on display, and serve as an exemplar in sustainable design with LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge Petal certifications.

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Marine Education Center at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Heeding this advice, the team began to conceptualize the design for the Marine Education Center (MEC) in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. The MEC is the education and outreach arm of The University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory. In 2005, the previous center was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. A second storm impacted the site during schematic design, and a third, Hurricane Nate, hit during construction. It was clear—the new facility would need to be resilient, sustainable, and durable.

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The Six

The Six, a 52-unit affordable apartment building, consists of 45 studios and seven one-bedroom apartments along with a second-floor recreation and laundry room, ground-floor offices, support services, computer lab, and on-grade parking for previously homeless and disabled veterans. Veterans constitute a disproportionate amount of the homeless population in the US. In Los Angeles, veterans comprise about 11 percent of the total homeless population. The tenants are generally older and have both physical and mental disabilities; therefore, the building’s operation was expected to be similar to special needs/assisted living.

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UPCycle transforms the former Balcones Recycling Center into a unique creative office building in the historic community of East Austin, Texas. Rather than building anew, the client prioritized adaptive reuse to help preserve and improve the neighborhood character and honor existing resources. The main design question was, how do you maintain the look and feel of the building’s industrial past but make it suitable for office use and recognizable as a place for people?

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