Committee on the Environment


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Who we are

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. Expand your positive impact: Engage in our advocacy efforts. Enjoy our last newsletter (and follow us on Twitter). To learn about the Framework for Design Excellence (formerly the COTE Top Ten Measures), click here >

A big thank you to our sponsors: 
Founding sponsor: Building Green
Presenting sponsor: GAF Roofing 

Sustaining sponsor: Lucifer Lighting Company, Kingspan
Green sponsors: AutodeskEPIC MetalsHKS, BPKC, ROCKWOOL, WRNSSkanska,
Allied sponsors: BNIM, Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, LMN David Baker Architects   

Supporting sponsors: Humanscale, Mahlum 

GAF x COTE: Looking at the Future

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

Defining Design Excellence | Measure 4: Design for Water

By Julie Hiromoto AIA posted 02-19-2020 12:13


Last year, AIA adopted the COTE measures as the AIA Framework for Design Excellence. We’ve been exploring the measures in a series of posts (see these about Measure 1: Design for Integration, Measure 2: Design for Equitable Community, and Measure 3: Design for Ecology). We asked Julie Hiromoto, AIA, of HKS, to share her thoughts about Measure 4: Design for Water, which reads:

Sustainable design conserves and improves the quality of water as a precious resource. Illustrate how various water streams flow through the building and site, including major water conservation and stormwater management strategies. How does the project relate to the regional watershed? Describe strategies to reduce reliance on municipal water sources. Does the project recapture or re-use water?

Responsible water use goes beyond conservation, potable water quality, and stormwater management.  Designing for water can also have social (in)equity implications as we’ve seen in Flint, Michigan, New Orleans after hurricane Katrina, and Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after the one-two punch of Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

How can we push beyond recognized metrics of plumbing fixture flows, landscape irrigation, stormwater retention and reuse, and grey or black water systems?  Process water is a significant volume of water in some program types.  Net zero water buildings and communities are the ultimate goal of a resilient and regenerative state.

Water also has the opportunity for influence beyond the boundaries of the project’s site.  Especially because these natural systems (watersheds) follow the rules of gravity, not geo-political boundaries.  In Dallas – Fort Worth, we’ve been exploring the concept of watershed urbanism with University of Texas Arlington’s College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs and Dean Adrian Parr, UNESCO Chair of Water and Human Settlements.

At HKS, we’ve been exploring how to shift the water conversation from coastal resilience and sea level rise to one that most of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. sunbelt are grappling with: how do we encourage development potential while preserving (and enhancing) the natural ecologies that drive young professionals, families, and retirees to relocate to 18-hour suburban cities, with the cost effectiveness, open space, convenience, and casual lifestyle that some of our gateway cities cannot compete with?

In Dallas, the Trinity River watershed covers 6,000 mi2.  1,000 mi2 of this area is currently urban.  Based on historical development patterns, we know this will continue to expand and sprawl, unless a purposeful effort is made to align economics, ecosystems, and human delight.  Half of the state of Texas (12.5M people) currently gets its water from the Trinity River.  This resource is critical to a thriving economy and communities.  In the next ten years, the DFW metroplex is expected to reach mega-city status (10M people).  How must our current infrastructure systems adapt to service this growth?  Instead of prioritizing development planning on growth rings, we should be contemplating a watershed plan that restores natural habitat and prairie land, while fueling economic growth and responsible development.


UTA CAPPA workshop visualized by artist Emily Jane Steinberg for DPICT