AIA Announces 2008 Top 10 Green Projects

April 29, 2008
The top 10 examples of sustainable architecture and green-design solutions have been announced by the AIA and its Committee on the Environment

The top 10 examples of sustainable architecture and green-design solutions have been announced by the Washington, D.C.-based American Institute of Architects (AIA) and its Committee on the Environment (COTE). The projects were chosen because they all highlight design innovations and sustainable strategies that protect and enhance the environment.

The metrics that determined the top 10 projects dealt with reduced carbon emissions, reduced energy consumption, and improved building functionality. "These projects were judged against a rigorous set of criteria to determine the best examples of sustainable design concepts and intentions," says Henry Siegel, chair of the AIA COTE. "In addition to examining their architectural innovation, the buildings had to have shown design elements within their regional/community context, land use and site ecology that benefit surrounding ecosystems, resource conservation through bioclimatic design, and the health benefits associated with improved lighting and indoor air quality."

The 2008 COTE Top 10 Green Projects program celebrates projects that are the result of an integrated approach to architecture, natural systems, and technology. Through strategies such as reuse of existing structures, connection to transit systems, low-impact and regenerative site development, energy and water conservation, and use of sustainable or renewable construction materials, these projects make a positive contribution to their communities and improve comfort for building occupants.

The 2008 Top Ten Green Projects (listed in alphabetical order):

Aldo Leopold Legacy Center
The Kubala Washatko Architects Inc., Cedarburg, WI

Completed in the spring of 2007, the 12,000-square-foot building includes office and meeting spaces, an interpretive hall, an archive, and a workshop. The center was envisioned as a small complex of structures organized around a central courtyard. This design provides flexibility in managing energy use based on program requirements, creates outdoor spaces for work and gathering, and reduces the scale of the buildings onsite. The Aldo Leopold Legacy Center is the first building recognized by LEED as carbon neutral in operation.

Juror Marvin Malecha says, "Through its demonstrable energy conservation and reduced heating, cooling, and operating costs, this is an excellent example of how a building can achieve carbon neutrality."

Cesar Chavez Library
Line and Space LLC, Tucson, AZ
In order to protect the outdoor and indoor space from the sun's radiation, this building uses extensive overhangs to create a "hat" in the desert. The scarcity of water led to rooftop rainwater collection for irrigation; water-reducing fixtures are used indoors. Always a concern in the desert, an area of high consumption, the building was carefully cut into the site, and the excavated material was used to berm the building for further thermal mass. The windows are also properly shaded to reduce solar gains.

Juror Susan T. Rodriguez says, "We saw leadership on the part of the city here, given the selection of this site for this building - it's in a place where it can help solve a problem. There's a 37,000-square-foot roofscape that is a part of irrigating a 40-acre park. We felt this showed strong vision to solve multiple problems at once."

Discovery Center at South Lake Union
The Miller/Hull Partnership, Seattle, WA

A primary program element for this particular center, alongside numerous other environmental goals, was to create a building and core that could provide adaptable exhibit space capable of being reconfigured and reused for the presentation of multiple residential neighborhoods throughout the South Lake Union Region over a lengthy period of time. In addition to creating flexible interior space, the building itself was designed to be demountable, separating at three integrated joints to break into four separate modules capable of being transported along surface streets.

Juror Jason McLennan says, "I really like the notion of saying, ‘This building type was supposed to be temporary, and we are going to reject that in favor of disassembly.' This is sustainable at the elemental level."

Pocono Environmental Education Center
Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Wilkes-Barre, PA

The building is designed to reinforce the mission of environmental stewardship and education. Through careful site and materials selection, analysis, and design of building systems, the structure outwardly expresses the principles of sustainable design. The building is a flexible, multi-purpose gathering space for dining, meetings, lectures, and other environmental learning activities. As part of the site design, native grasses were planted to provide a landscape that is low maintenance and integrates the project into its natural surroundings.

Rodriguez adds, "This is a dramatic transformation of a site by using the materials removed from its clean-up to create the exterior envelope, which is exciting to see. The use of the recycled tires and the texture they produce are inventive."

Garthwaite Center for Science and Art, Cambridge School of Weston
Architerra Inc., Boston, MA

The facility is designed to advance sustainability, creating an exemplar and educational tool through a design process that engaged the entire community. This LEED Platinum design incorporates dozens of green features that students can view as well as measure and manipulate. The result is a compelling model for educational institutions. Fifty-five detailed sustainability goals included renewable energy, no water to be discharged to the local sewer, 100-percent stormwater infiltration on-site, artificial lighting designed to less than 1 watt per square foot, and minimal maintenance for 20 years.

Juror Rebecca Henn says, "There is a lot of education here; this is a true teaching tool. The students participated in the design of the building. They treat all their wastewater, and these strategies are integrated into the pedagogy. There are only three small spaces that are conditioned in this building; all other spaces are naturally ventilated."

Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life
VJAA, Minneapolis, MN
The existing building was stripped to the concrete frame, expanded by 33 percent, and redesigned with a variety of environmental systems. The hot and humid New Orleans climate is further tempered with strategies for expanding the comfort zone - including programming for thermal zoning and technically innovative systems for variable shading, moving air, and radiant cooling. Despite its high ambitions, the project had a modest budget and was completed for $189 per square foot, 14 months after Hurricane Katrina. Since then, Tulane sees the project as a new model for sustainable design in New Orleans.

Juror Glenn Murcott says, "One intriguing feature of this project was that it has a Punkah, a traditional Indian system to move air."

Macallen Building Condominiums
Office dA Inc. and Burt Hill Inc., Boston, MA
The 140-unit condominium is a conscious and deliberate effort by both client/developer and the architectural and engineering team to incorporate sustainable design measures. It utilizes green design as a way of marketing a lifestyle and concern for the environment while simultaneously increasing revenue from the design project as a business strategy. The building, just completed in south Boston, is striving for LEED Gold certification in sustainable design. Some of the green-building features include innovative technologies that will save more than 600,000 gallons of water annually while consuming 30-percent less electricity than a conventional building.

Malecha adds, "This project was built on an environmentally challenged site that was previously unused space. So, not only does in enhance the environment, but it [also] provides valuable inner city housing and shows a certain amount of urban savvy."

Queens Botanical Garden Visitor & Administration Center
BKSK Architects, New York, NY

In looking to the future, the Garden has propelled itself into the front ranks of its field as the first botanical garden in the country devoted to sustainable environmental stewardship. The goal has been to integrate a beautiful contemporary building into the experience of its varied gardens and landscapes, heightening the visitor experience of the natural environment and conveying the key elements of successful sustainability. A water channel surrounds the building and weaves through the garden, fed by rainwater that cascades off of the sheltering roof canopy.

Juror Gail Brager says, "I especially appreciated the focus on water - which is a critical and often overlooked aspect of sustainable design. In addition to the project's significant attention to stormwater management, rainwater collection, and a graywater system, water was also used as a strong design element to unify the building and landscape, and raise people's awareness of the water cycle at the site and building scale."

The Nueva School, Hillside Learning Complex
Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, San Francisco, CA

The 33-acre campus, located in the semi-rural coastal hills of the San Francisco Peninsula, features a thriving coast, live oak woodland ecosystem, a variety of dispersed structures, and dramatic views of San Francisco Bay. The design is grounded in the desire to integrate straightforward, appropriate, and cost-effective sustainable design solutions within the broader language of contemporary architectural expression. Through a variety of simple, observable systems and strategies, site energy use was reduced by at least 65 percent from the national average for schools, meeting the 2030 Challenge.

McLennan adds, "This seemed to be a very successful project. They did a good job of balancing design and performance; they had particularly notable energy and water metrics."

Yale University Sculpture Building and Gallery
KieranTimberlake Associates LLP, Philadelphia, PA

Situated on a former brownfield site, the new complex is comprised of three new buildings. To provide maximum daylight and exceptional energy efficiency, a wall system was designed that incorporates solar shading, a triple-glazed low-E vision panel, 8-foot high operable windows, and a translucent double cavity spandrel panel. Consequently, the entire skin of the building admits natural light. The green roof on the gallery and native plant landscaping, which includes mature trees, serves as a connective habitat patch for avian species moving through the urban corridor between these parks.

Brager adds, "The high-performance façade is impressive in the way it balances warm and cold season operation, integrating shading and alternating panels of operable windows, aerogel insulation, and ventilation apertures in a double-skin thermal cavity."

Find more information on these projects at

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