Committee on the Environment

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Who we are

The Committee on the Environment (COTE®) is an AIA Knowledge Community working for architects, allied professionals, and the public to achieve climate action and climate justice through design. We believe that design excellence is the foundation of a healthy, sustainable, and equitable future. Our work promotes design strategies that empower all AIA members to realize the best social and environmental outcomes with the clients and the communities they serve.

Expand your positive impact:
Engage in our advocacy efforts. Enjoy our latest on COTE news (and follow us on Twitter).

To learn about the Framework for Design Excellence (formerly the COTE Top Ten Measures), click here.

Did you miss the 2021 Top Ten Toast, download a recording here.

Check out COTE's history and timeline. 

Starting a local COTE or sustainability group and need some guidance? Check out the AIA COTE Network Guide here.

A big thank you to our partners: 
Founding partner: Building Green
Premier partners: Kingspan, Sherwin-Williams
Sustaining partners: GAF Roofing, Kawneer, Milliken, ROCKWOOL
Green partners: AutodeskEPIC MetalsHKSThornton Tomasetti, Skanska
Allied partners: TLC Engineering, Sierra Pacific Windows

GAF x COTE: Looking at the Future

This 2019 video was compiled by GAF, a COTE sponsor. 

LETTER from the Chair: January/February 2022 by Billie Faircloth, FAIA

By Eana Bacchiocchi posted 01-05-2022 03:01 PM


Dear COTE Members, 

We begin 2022 with a note of deep gratitude for all past, present, and new COTE volunteers. The Committee on the Environment (COTE) has begun its 32nd year of essential work to “promote design strategies that empower all AIA members to realize the best social and environmental outcomes with the clients and the communities they serve.” Our volunteers are individuals, groups, and firms who have and continue to offer their vision, expertise, and resources to achieve a healthy, equitable, and sustainable future. They are jurors, technical reviewers, advocates, practitioners, students, and educators who collectively expand and improve upon our key programs: The COTE Top Ten Awards and The COTE Top Ten for Students Competition 

THANK YOU for dedicating yourselves and your firms to this work, and for helping COTE demonstrate the positive and transformative power of design. Our work aspires to be uplifting, but it comes with self-reflection and unflagging critique. We have all contributed to big wins in our individual work with clients, organizations, and institutions, as much as we’ve felt deep disappointment over decisions that seem to fail in their lack of nerve. We know that many of you are feeling the sting of advocacy fatigue even as you commit and recommit yourselves to climate advocacy work nationally and locally. COTE’s programs have always aimed to be a platform from which to celebrate the wins while also propelling us toward a deeper understanding of the impact of our actions on people, communities, and the environment.  

In 2022, COTE will focus on the essential work of its strategic mission and vision. The work of the COTE Leadership Group (COTE LG) will place emphasis on these three priorities:  

One priority will be to strengthen our network and expand our capacity for outreach, amplifying the climate work of AIA board committees, AIA Knowledge Communities, and industry-wide organizations. This year we officially welcome into the COTE LG liaisons from the Young Architects Forum (YAF) and COTE Network. These liaisons will work throughout the year to coordinate the efforts of our respective groups. We will also continue to coordinate with the Committee on Climate Action and Design Excellence (CCADE), the Committee on Design (AIA COD), AIA Honors and Awards, and AIA staff to promote the accessibility and evolution of the Framework for Design Excellence 

As a second key priority, the COTE LG will begin a new and essential workstream that examines the relationship between design excellence, climate action, and climate justice. This work builds upon COTE’s update in 2021 to the COTE Top Ten Awards Measure 2, Design for Equitable Communities. It also learns from the work of COTE Advocacy which prioritizes national-level environmental policy action. The COTE LG looks forward to announcing more about this work mid-year and inviting volunteers to work with us on this important initiative.   

The third priority I wanted to mention is that in 2022, we will also reflect on the meaning and purpose of our programs and plans for their future. Early in 2022, the COTE LG will assemble groups to begin a broad review of The COTE Top Ten Awards and The COTE Top Ten for Students Competition. These programs have elevated exemplary projects and have built, in the words of the late Gail Lindsey, FAIA, a founder of The COTE Top Ten Awards, “a database of the very best.”  What is design excellence now, and what should these programs aim for in the immediate future? COTE volunteers, if you are interested in contributing your feedback, and participating in this effort, please reach out to us via (or to me or a member of the COTE LG) and indicate your interest and willingness to work with us to evolve these programs.   

Billie Faircloth, FAIA 

2022 AIA COTE Chair