Committee on the Environment

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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.

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

A big thank you to our 2024 sponsors: 
Founding sponsors: Building Green
Premier sponsors: Sherwin-Williams, Stantec
Sustaining sponsors: GAF Roofing, Milliken, Andersen Windows,
BlueScope Buildings
Green sponsors: EPIC Metals
Allied sponsors: TLC Engineering, Sierra Pacific Windows

COTE Guide to AIA Conference on Architecture 2023 (A’23)

By Kira L. Gould Hon. AIA posted 03-23-2023 03:33 PM


COTE Guide to AIA Conference on Architecture 2023 (A’23)


If you are coming to the AIA Conference on Architecture (A’23) this year (June 7-10 in San Francisco), there are several official COTE events plus many more great sessions to consider. 


Performing Beautifully: The COTE Top Ten Awards

8 June, 2-330pm / TH106

A big idea is essential for great design. The COTE Top Ten Awards, architecture’s best-known award program , highlight buildings with the big idea of sustainable design excellence. Each year, innovative professional and student projects are recognized for their integration of design excellence with environmental performance, equity, and climate action. These amazing projects, of different scales and from different areas, are proof that architecture can be highly performing, beautiful, and truly inspiring.

Speakers: Michelle Amt, Katie Ackerly, Avinash Rajagopal, Lori Ferriss

COTE Top Ten Toast *Sold out*

8 June, 730-930pm / EV214

The Top Ten Toast will honor the 2023 recipients of the Top Ten Awards and celebrate the Top Ten Students Competition, including its founding and rippling impact over the years. The event provides a unique opportunity to learn from recognized leaders in sustainable design and network with like minded members. This event is hosted at the offices of Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects ($80/$45/$25).

COTE Open Forum: Realizing Climate Action & Climate Justice

9 June, 10-1130am / EV305

What do "climate action" and "climate justice" mean in practice? Committee on the Environment Leadership Group members (Lori Ferriss, AIA, PE; Arathi Gowda, AIA; Ganesh Nayak, AIA) will speak about this year's focus on "making it happen," as designers and communities work together to redefine value, embrace a culture of care, reuse urban fabric, and practice climate-responsive design centered on health and equity. Breakouts will explore advocacy, engagement, tools, and pathways toward equitable communities. A very special guest speaker --  Lindsay Baker, CEO of the International Living Future Institute -- will kick off the session. 

Speakers: Lori Ferriss, Arathi Gowda, Ganesh Nayak, Lindsay Baker


In addition to those, here is a sampling of other sessions that address sustainability, resilience, equity, measurement, carbon, advocacy, and many other topics that are central to COTE’s mission and which involve people in the COTE community (this list will expand as we learn about more): 


Braving Space: Setting Goals for Equity & Inclusion in Design

7 June, 10-1130am / WE203

What does an inclusive building look like to you? How does it function, and whom does it benefit? This session shares a story about the power of co-creating equity and inclusion goals in early phase design, demonstrating the AIA Guides for Equitable Practice in action. Hear about a client’s pursuit of “brave space” and gain insight into the voices, resources, and planning necessary for deep engagement during the design process. Learn to identify the critical intersection between people, identities, and design decision-making, and recognize opportunities in your work to support inclusive built environments.

Speakers: Billie Faircloth, Karen Thomas-Brown, Renée Cheng


Design for Value: Balance Competing Goals When Selecting Building Materials

7 June, 1-330pm / WE301

Selecting building materials that are resilient to regional hazards and achieve sustainability goals while meeting budget, timeline, and design aesthetics can be a challenge. This session will help architects balance client and climate priorities for high-performance outcomes. Examine the climate and health impacts of building materials; how they respond to increased hazards such as increased storm and wildfire intensity while meeting budget, timeline, and design aesthetics; and how to make more informed product selections for high-performance design to meet project, community, and climate goals.
Speakers: Ilana Judah, Bruce King, Mayrah Udvardi, Ashley Brian Lomel


Carbon Crash Course Charrette 

7 June, 1-330pm / WE303

This session is for climate-conscious architects who learn by doing! The rhythm of the workshop will alternate between real case study presentations that highlight open-source carbon accounting tools in use at speakers’ firms and breakout group opportunities to apply the same open-source tools in real time, with guidance from speakers. All are welcome—we will level set and cover foundational whole-lifecycle carbon concepts as well as available data sources and tools in the United States, such as EPIC, EC3, NREL Cambium, and eGRID.

Speakers: Alex Ianchenko, Efrie Escott, Jack Rusk, Justin Schwartzhoff


Climate Justice: Transforming Community Engagement Into Community Empowerment

7 June, 1-330pm / WE302

The AIA prioritizes urgent climate action through the AIA Framework for Design Excellence, the AIA 2030 Commitment, and emphasis on reducing operational and embodied carbon emissions. Yet many architects at small- and medium-sized firms struggle to meet these objectives, due to lack of dedicated sustainability staff and budgets that don't support advanced design techniques. This practicum will provide strategies, resources, approaches, and tools to position firms for high-performance, low-carbon results. Develop a plan for elevating your firm’s performance, including steps to join the 2030 Commitment, creating a Sustainability Action Plan, and adapting the Framework for Design Excellence.

Speakers: Matthew VanSweden, Trudy Ngo-Brown, Megan Feenstra Wall


Sustainability & the Small/Medium Firm: High-Impact Strategies for Success

7 June, 1-330pm / WE305

The American Institute of Architects prioritizes urgent climate action through the AIA Framework for Design Excellence, the AIA 2030 Commitment, and emphasis on reducing operational and embodied carbon emissions. Yet many architects at small- and medium-sized firms struggle to meet these objectives, due to lack of dedicated sustainability staff and budgets that don't support advanced design techniques. This practicum will provide strategies, resources, approaches, and tools to position firms for high-performance, low-carbon results. Develop a plan for elevating your firm’s performance, including steps to join the 2030 Commitment, creating a Sustainability Action Plan, and adapting the Framework for Design Excellence.

Speakers: James Roseberry, Nadav Malin, Gwen Fuertes, David Arkin


Forming Feeling: Experiential Design Strategies

7 June, 2-3pm / WE406

This interactive session empowers architects to choreograph rich multisensory experiences in buildings, connecting people to nature and embracing the value of environmental variability. Participants will acquire practical guidance for delighting occupants, presented as a networked language of experiential design schemas based in elegant built precedents and research evidence. The schemas represent a fundamental shift in thinking, from uniform, space-based conditioning to a more localized, people-based approach, where subtle variations alleviate experiential monotony and bring inhabitants’ feeling responses back to the center of design intentions, all in support of simultaneously minimizing energy use, enhancing occupant well-being, and supporting environmental stewardship.

Speakers: Gail Brager, Mark DeKay


The 2030 Commitment & How It Changes Work

7 June, 4-5pm / WE515

In this session, representatives from Mahlum Architects will discuss how the AIA 2030 Commitment process, data collection, and synthesis evolved over their firm’s 12 years of participation in the Commitment, what tools were used to explore the data, and how to leverage the data to read the narrative of progress towards a zero-carbon future.

Speakers: Jesse Walton, Katie Felver


The AIA Headquarters Renewal: Advocating for a Healthy Built Environment

7 June, 4-5pm / WE510

A major transformation is underway at the American Institute of Architects’ national headquarters in Washington, DC. Scheduled to open in late 2024, the new headquarters will be a physical manifestation of the Institute’s values, demonstrating the power of design to advocate for a zero-carbon, equitable, resilient, and healthy built environment. This session will explore the major renovation of a 1973 Brutalist building into a place of high performance and high impact—an engaging and inclusive new campus that reflects the diversity of the profession and a reimagined workplace landscape that enhances collaboration, ideation, belonging, and wellness.

Speakers: Patricia Heye, Rebecca Sharkey


Pioneering Sustainability in San Francisco: AIA COTE Top Ten Winners

June 8, 11am-5pm / ET204

Each year, AIA's Committee on the Environment presents the COTE Top Ten Awards, recognizing projects for the integration of design excellence with environmental performance. This bus tour is a voyage through the history of climate action, showcasing the award-winning works of EHDD and Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects.

You'll experience projects from a period spanning of over 20 years: The Thoreau Center for Sustainability (LMS-1998), California College of the Arts (LMS-2001), Exploratorium at Pier 15 (EHDD-2016), Rene Cazenave Apartment (LMS-2016), San Francisco Art Institute at Fort Mason (LMS-2018), Family House (LMS-2018), Lick Wilmerding High School (EHDD-2022), and Edwin M. Lee Apartments (LMS-2022).

Resiliency Solutions for Historic Buildings: Historic Resources Committee Lunch

8 June, 1130am-130pm / EV205
Join the Historic Resources Committee Knowledge Community to discuss the complexities of climate change with sea level rise and the impact to historic buildings and sites. We will begin with the historical context of the Embarcadero and discuss current projects and potential solutions.  You'll socialize with your fellow preservation architects, get an update on what HRC is doing in 2023 and take away lessons for your practice while enjoying food, conversation, and an insider's look at our unique luncheon venue! 

$30 students (in advance & at the door) |$65 AIA Associate members |$85 for all others | $100 at the door
City Club, 155 Sansome 


Oakland Ecoblock: Much More Than a Microgrid

8 June, 2-330pm / TH112

The Oakland EcoBlock offers an approach to complete decarbonization of an existing block-long street in the culturally diverse Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland, California. Attendees will learn how an interdisciplinary team of residents, community organizers, researchers, planners, engineers, architects, builders, attorneys, and city and utility representatives collaborated in reducing carbon emissions to zero, increasing resilience, and strengthening community in this low/middle-income neighborhood, providing a scalable pathway toward decarbonization of existing urban neighborhoods in other communities. An EcoBlock team panel will discuss the project; legal, technical, and engagement challenges and solutions; lessons learned; and a holistic path for decarbonizing existing residential neighborhoods.

Speakers: Susi Marzuola, Andrea Traber, Therese Peffer, Amy Dryden


Integrating Climate Research Into Design Practice

8 June, 2-330pm / TH117

This session will offer a deep dive into the current state of practice-based research, with an explicit focus on firms and practitioners who are successfully developing applied climate action tools and strategies for the built environment. Presenters will focus on how to build tools, develop insights, and expand disciplinary knowledge from a cross section of small, medium, and large design firms. Equal parts information and inspiration, this session will show attendees how in-house research initiatives can be integrated into design practice to advance robust climate action and provide competitive service offerings.

Speakers: Jack Rusk, Jonah Susskind, Susan Jones, Billie Faircloth


Seeing Green, Doing Green: Biophilic Design & Environmentally Responsible Behavior

8 June, 4-5pm / THU117

This session will highlight how building occupants interpret the sustainability of two LEED buildings at Shady Grove in Rockville, Maryland. One facility’s biophilic design visibly celebrates environmental connectivity, user health, and sustainable habits through the experience of the building itself. The other building does not include biophilic design elements or engage occupants in the building’s sustainable features. Research findings comparing the two buildings contribute to our understanding of how occupant awareness of biophilia can not only optimize human health and well-being but also inspire building users to reconnect with nature and exhibit environmentally responsible behavior.

Speakers: Erin Hamilton, Ryan Jones


The Framework for Design Excellence: Lessons From the Field

8 June, 4-5pm / TH205

The Framework for Design Excellence is an evolving guide, organized around critical questions to help architects design a zero-carbon, resilient, healthy, and equitable built environment. This session will demonstrate how a variety of architects use it to uncover client desires; shape design concepts; establish and track building performance goals; support health and well-being; reduce resource use; and deliver within the project budget.

Speaker: Allison Anderson, FAIA, Megan Feenstra Wall, AIA, Todd Walker, FAIA, Pauline Souza


Stanley Center for Peace & Security: Co-Creating a Living Building

8 June, 4-5pm / TH206

The Stanley Center’s global mission focuses on three areas: Mitigating climate change, limiting the spread and use of nuclear weapons, and preventing mass violence and atrocities. The design of its headquarters presented an extraordinary opportunity to advocate for its mission through its built environment by pursuing Living Building certification. In this case study, hear from architect and client on how they built a team, a process, and a facility that educates, influences, and advocates for a more equitable, sustainable, and just world both during design and after project completion.

Speakers: Sally Obernolte, Keith Porter


Becoming a Citizen Architect

9 June, 2-330pm / FR101

This session illustrates how practicing architects can engage in the political and regulatory landscape. Hear from three practicing architects who have made being a citizen architect a part of their careers and daily lives. Presenters include an AIA Gold Medal winner from a firm with offices in Los Angeles and Florida (Angela Brooks,FAIA); the 2019 Young Architect Award winner, from a large firm in Dallas (Julie Hiromoto, FAIA); and the first architect to serve in the Arizona State House of Representatives in more than 40 years (Christian Solorio, AIA). Kira Gould, Hon. AIA, will moderate the conversation.
Speakers: Kira Gould, Angela Brooks, Julie Hiromoto, and Christian Solorio


Decarbonizing Existing Buildings at Scale for Justice & Health

9 June, 2-330pm / FR109

What if we told you that the buildings we already have are our best hope for achieving carbon neutrality and climate justice? By improving the environmental and social performance of existing buildings, we tackle both embodied carbon and operational carbon while also achieving other core sustainability goals. Our panel, representing architecture, affordable housing development, and public policy, offers concrete strategies for thinking big and taking action at the portfolio scale. These strategies not only curb emissions but also improve health and equity for building occupants in commercial offices, affordable housing, and other spaces.

Speakers: Paula Melton, Luis Aguirre-Torres, Z Smith, Lauren Zullo


All in the Details: New Approach to Energy Code Compliance

9 June, 2-330pm / FR121

Bridging the gap between complex energy regulations and the construction industry, this session leverages the potential of architectural details to communicate both the nuts and bolts of building while also elevating understanding throughout the many stakeholders involved in project delivery. The result is a win-win—more efficient project delivery for design professionals and increased building performance and code compliance. Hear the perspectives of a builder, an architect, and a building code consultant regarding the role of content and organization of construction documents in creating better outcomes for everyone, including the community at large.

Speakers: Erica DiLello, Michael Malinowski, Amy Felix, Jim Hansen


Buildings as Environment & Climate Education Tools

10 June, 10-11am / SA115

Do visitors to your green building walk away with a greater understanding of their role within the environment and climate crisis? Three architects and an interpretive design expert will argue that sustainable architecture should go beyond performance and function as an environmental education tool. Highlighting recently completed projects, panelists will share concrete strategies for communicating energy performance, natural resource management, and ecological stewardship to building occupants. Learn how interpretive elements work in tandem with experiential design elements to actively engage occupants in learning experiences, allowing them to comprehend sustainability concepts embodied in buildings and landscapes.

Speakers: Michael Fiegenschuh, Misha Semënov-Leiva, John Taylor Schaffhauser, Rich Franko


Be Informed: Select Safer Materials Early in the Design Process

10 June, 10-11am / SA205

Our interior spaces can significantly impact our health, productivity, and environment. Our product choices matter for the health of our children and the health of the people interacting with materials during their manufacturing, installation, and disposal. Join Healthy Building Network and MSR Design in this interactive, practice-oriented practicum to learn about the impacts of your product choices and apply an innovative preemptive materials assessment method to select safer alternatives. Learn how to rank your products from a material health perspective, create baselines to track project performance, and identify stories of impact to communicate to your stakeholders.

Speakers: Cristian Valle Kinloch, Simona Fischer, Nsilo Berry


Uncovering the Blind Spots in Your Carbon Reduction Targets

10 June, 1130-1230 / SA306

The AIA's Climate Action Plan requires reducing carbon emissions through design, but what scope of action is necessary? How can architects address the highest priority sources of carbon emissions without risk of ignoring substantial impacts? This session will explore the range of carbon emission sources on built works, daylighting blind spots not captured in traditional energy models and whole-building lifecycle analysis. Real-world findings will be presented through a case study of a recently completed university classroom building, highlighting cross-discipline design decisions, methods developed, and tools used to maximize carbon emission reductions.

Speakers: Justin Schwartzhoff, David Mead, Kelsey Rose


Performance-Based Specifications for Embodied Carbon Reduction

10 June, 1130-1230 / SA301

Specifications are a valuable tool for embodied carbon reduction that can bring about quick wins in designing for a low-carbon or net-zero building. Because the industry’s attention to embodied carbon is new, many examples of embodied carbon specifications do not yet exist. Thornton Tomasetti, long-time participant in the Carbon Leadership Forum, was early to develop specifications for concrete, steel, and timber. In this session, the considerations and challenges that the firm experienced will be shared to help others in defining and using specifications.

Speakers: Jackson Pitofsky, Gunnar Hubbard


NOTE / We will add to this list as we are made aware of more relevant sessions. If you have sessions to add, please email Kira Gould (