Most paragons of architectural greatness distinguish themselves by an ability to stand out from their surroundings. The American Institute of Architects, by contrast, has just recognized a handful of buildings for their capacity to blend in.
This week, the AIA’s Committee on the Environment (COTE) chose 10 structures that contribute more to the environments in which they dwell than they remove.
They all have a few things in common: First, winning structures are designed with the natural environment in mind: the buildings, as examples, recycle wastewater and replace non-permeable ground and roof coverings, like asphalt, with soil and native vegetation. They also reduce energy consumption by taking advantage of natural light and using on-site renewable energy options like photovoltaic systems. Projects are also designed to improve public health: buildings are located within access to existing public transit networks to encourage walking, bicycling and riding, and designers maximized use of natural light and ventilation and used products that do not give off harmful particles or gases to improve indoor air quality.
Beyond providing feedback for green designers and architects, the panel encourages planners to recognize the importance of sustainable design. As an added incentive to green construction, AIA introduced a voluntary self-reporting system for builders to track their progress toward designing low energy structures as part of its goal of having most buildings be carbon-neutral and non-polluting.
“What we see is a national average energy reduction of around 35 percent over the last three years and this is a great step forward,” says Judson University Department of Architecture Chair Keelan Kaiser, who was a member of the COTE judging panel.