Committee on the Environment


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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. 

Kjell Anderson: Defining Design Excellence | Measure 6: Design for Energy

By Kira L. Gould posted 05-14-2020 17:13


Defining Design Excellence | Measure 6: Design for Energy 

In 2019, the AIA adopted the COTE measures as the AIA Framework for Design Excellence. We’ve been exploring the measures in a series of posts. We asked Kjell Anderson, AIA, LEED Fellow, of LMN Architects, to share his thoughts about Measure 6: Design for Energy. The measure reads: 

How much energy does the project use? Is any of that energy generated on-site from renewable sources, and what is the net carbon impact? The burning of fossil fuels to provide energy for buildings is a major component of global greenhouse gas emissions, driving climate change. Sustainable design conserves energy while improving building performance, function, comfort, and enjoyment. How did analysis of local climate inform the design challenges and opportunities? Describe any energy challenges associated with the building type, intensity of use, or hours of operation, and how the design responds to these challenges. Describe energy-efficient design intent, including passive design strategies and active systems and technologies. How are these strategies evident in the design, not just the systems? 

It is no secret that our industry contributes nearly half of all human-caused global warming emissions. As leaders and as conveners of the greatest minds in our industry, we have an historic opportunity to change the trajectory of the human condition on our planet through our actions over the next decade. 

Based on an overwhelming vote (93% in support) at the 2019 AIA Conference, the Institute is transforming its mission to support work addressing climate change until carbon neutral architecture is standard practice. AIA’s 2020 Climate Action Plan, recently approved by the AIA board and soon to be released, will provide details on this transformation. 

As problem solvers, can our creativity blossom within this climate imperative? It demands we start, not with fully glazed buildings, but with thoughtfully considered openings and a protective envelope. This allows us to utilize smaller, advanced, electricity-based mechanical systems. Renewable energy, on-site or off, completes the package. While many utilities have plans and regulations that will reduce the carbon intensity of electricity over time, extracting and burning fossil fuels, including natural gas, are not going to get our industry to carbon neutral architecture. 

The key to making this cost-effective is energy modeling, where cost and performance options can be directly compared early in design. Along with modeling embodied carbon, this gives us and our clients the information needed for better decision-making that aligns with our goals and principles. Energy modeling, when integrated into the early design process, has a simple payback over months, not years.  

At LMN we’ve identified how to tackle our projects emissions, with dozens of commitments to elevate our practice, with energy and carbon having primacy in our work. Everyone in the firm has a role to play: from winning new work to programming and early massing consideration, from consultant coordination through envelope detailing and construction administration, and in the boards and committees we choose to be involved with. 

Thinking globally, acting locally. As Architects, we make many design decisions internally and provide trusted advice to our clients about many topics, including energy and carbon. As leaders in our industry, we have enormous opportunity for positive change. In what ways are you addressing energy and carbon on your current project? 

Kjell Anderson, AIA, LEED Fellow, practices architecture and serves as a Principal and the Director of Sustainable Design at LMN Architects in Seattle. He contributes to all LMN projects, assisting teams to assist our client to set and exceed ambitious client’s sustainability goals, incorporating resilience, future-proofing, and climate-mitigating design. His book “Design Energy Simulation for Architects” was written to expand and better define the field of early-design-centric energy simulations, including daylighting, airflow, whole-building, and urban modeling. Over 20 years in practice, he has designed buildings in many countries, regions and climates, adapting designs to the strengths of each one. He keynoted the 2016 SimBuild energy modeling conference, and has presented at the AIA+2030 Series, Greenbuild, ASHRAE, and the AIA Convention along with many webcasts with BuildingGreen and other organizations.  

You can find more stories in this series here: Measure 1: Design for Integration (by Kira Gould); Measure 2: Design for Equitable Community (by Gould); Measure 3: Design for Ecology (by Gould); Measure 4: Design for Water (by Julie Hiromoto, AIA; and Measure 5: Design for Resources (by Billie Tsien, AIA). Stories about Measure 7, 8, 9, and 10 will appear in forthcoming posts. 


IMAGE CAPTION: Embodying the Seattle Aquarium’s mission of ‘Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment’, the new Ocean Pavilion will showcase conservation research across the greater pacific, housing exhibits focused on global stories that foster an Ocean Ethic. The project employs a number of sustainable strategies that are visible, functional and enhance the interpretive experience. By incorporating early energy and carbon modeling and integrated design, the Pavilion relies on high efficiency heat pumps, animal life support and heat recovery systems instead of the standard gas-fired systems, resulting in a 70% energy use reduction and 95% carbon emissions reduction.