COTE Top Ten Plus Award Environmental Nature Center and Preschool, Newport Beach, Calif.; photo credit: Cris Costea.


Each year, the AIA’s Committee on the Environment (COTE®) recognizes 10 projects that integrate design excellence and environmental performance. One winner receives the COTE Top Ten Plus award—an indication of exemplary proven energy performance and post-occupancy results. This year’s “plus” award was given to the Environmental Nature Center and Preschool in Newport Beach, California, for reasons of “Introducing kids to responsible sustainability at a young age and represents a place where people will want to send their children. It does all the right things—water, biophilia, resilience, and strong material choices.” (ARCHITECT Magazine) 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.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) last month announced the winners of the 2020 COTE Top Ten Awards, which are conferred by AIA’s Committee on the Environment. The AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE®) works to advance, disseminate, and advocate design practices that integrate built and natural systems and enhance both the design quality and environmental performance of the built environment. This year’s winners include 10 government, education, commercial, and community projects across the United States.

Additional 2020 winners include:

  • Austin Central Library, Austin, Texas
    Lake|Flato Architects + Shepley Bulfinch, Joint Venture
    • Jury Comment: “The interior light-filled atrium has become a living room for the city, open to the community and all constituencies; the space is dynamic and offers many opportunities for citizens to find just the right spot to read, study, meet, or work.”
  • U.S. Land Port of Entry, Columbus, New Mexico
    Richter Architects
    • Jury Comment: “A port of entry is a challenging building type. The designers in this project not only met that challenge, but achieved more by showing us how the architecture of any kind can make human environments healthy and dignified. This is a thoughtful, durable building made to last.”
  • Etsy Headquarters, New York
    • Jury Comment: “Everything about the inhabitants, the building, and the use of the space are involved in the investment in sustainability as a way of life. This project is a celebration of health and craft and takes an existing fabric and transforms it into something more rewarding. “
  • Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice, New York
    • Jury Comment: “The new design adds adjustments and changes to its planning that make it more public and equitable. The garden is reestablished as a public oasis that invites the community in, and following the current values of the Ford Foundation, the building makes room for like-minded partners in a more collaborative structure.”
  • John W. Olver Design Building, Amherst, Mass.
    Leers Weinzapfel Associates
    • Jury Comment: “The space is made possible by an innovative wood truss system showing us how to reach beyond the CLT systems to make larger spaces. Its courtyard guarantees views and access to campus to everyone within the building and is well integrated into the larger campus.”
  • Keller Center—Harris School of Public Policy, Chicago
    Farr Associates (Design Lead & Architect of Record) and Woodhouse Tinucci Architects (Collaborating Architect, Interior Designer)
    • Jury Comment: “The opening of the floor plates to create a larger light-filled community atrium makes the interior expansive. This design intervention teaches us an important lesson on how to transform these large floor plate-existing buildings into healthy, desirable, light-filled spaces.”
  • Marine Education Center at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, Ocean Springs, Miss.
    Lake|Flato Architects, in association with Unabridged Architecture
    • Jury Comment: “The design team’s thoughtful care shows everywhere. The complex is ordered not by an imposition of a construct of some kind, but by finding sites that create minimal damage and that would be above the flood plain and remain inherently resilient.”
  • The Six, Los Angeles
    Brooks + Scarpa
    • Jury Comment: “The courtyard makes a public protected space and provides a communal harbor for a vulnerable population. Passive strategies are identified at the building and unit scale. The units are light-filled, and the courtyard provides ventilation.”
  • UPCycle, Austin, Texas
    • Jury Comment: “The design team here shows us how to make a great, healthy, sustainable, adaptive reuse project within a crazy tight budget.”


Plans are underway for METALCON 2020 to happen October 21-23, 2020, in Las Vegas. For the first time in its 30 years, this year’s show will feature a special program designed for architects called “The Architect’s Experience at METALCON.” Given the architects’ critical role in the design and build process, we plan to deliver a combined education and exhibit floor experience exclusively for architects as it relates to the use of metal in building, including the sustainability and environmental performance aspects. AIA credits will be awarded and AIA members can receive $100 off registration. The program will take place on Tuesday, October 20 and include access to the exhibit floor Wednesday through Friday.

For all of the latest METALCON show news and details about the special planning going for this year’s show, tune in THIS WEDNESDAY for METALCONLive!: Special Las Vegas Edition. REGISTER HERE to secure your virtual seat.

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