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

Building Reuse for Climate Action: A New AIA Guide

By Kira L. Gould Hon. AIA posted 04-17-2024 07:24 PM


Building Reuse for Climate Action: A New AIA Practice Guide

By Kelsey Wotila, AIA

AIA has recently released a new practice guide: Today's Buildings for Tomorrow: Guide to Building Reuse for Climate Action. It is designed to be an essential and practical resource tailored for architects engaged in the renovation and adaptive reuse of existing buildings. Its core objective is to equip architects with practical insights to make informed decisions that maximize positive outcomes. This guide serves as a compass for navigating the complexities of building renovation projects, highlighting the logic in approaching a project (what questions should a designer ask, when, in order to make the lowest negative impact decisions for their project), as well as some simple strategies to implement.

This guide underscores the importance of conserving a broad spectrum of buildings, not just historical landmarks. With approximately half of the U.S. building stock surpassing the 40-year mark and renovation and reuse projects comprising over 50% of architectural billings, all existing buildings have potential – and adaptive reuse is critical in shaping the future of our built environment equitably and responsibly.

I was a lead author of this new resource, along with Z Smith, FAIA, of EskewDumezRipple. Case studies were contributed by: Lara Kaufman, architect, Studio Gang; Douglas Flandro, associate, Cambridge Seven; Allison Anderson, FAIA, unabridged Architecture; Helena Zambrano, AIA, Mahlum; Nakita Reed, AIA, Quinn Evans; Z Smith, FAIA, EskewDumezRipple; and Carl Sterner, AIA, Sol Design + Consulting. 

The authors analyze existing buildings by component: site, structure/space plan, envelope, HVAC/systems, and materials/finishes. Then, it highlights seven case studies across climate regions, project types, and geographies. These cases serve as tangible examples of how strategic renovation efforts can not only reduce embodied carbon but also enhance operational efficiency while fostering community enrichment.

The guide's emphasis on leveraging existing building stock resonates amidst escalating environmental concerns and the imperative to mitigate carbon emissions. It underscores the imperative for architects and building owners alike to recognize the untapped potential of existing structures and harness these resources effectively. Rather than defaulting to new construction, embracing the ethos of adaptive reuse presents a compelling option for sustainable development. The guide charts a course towards a more sustainable and equitable future—one where the preservation of existing buildings emerges as a viable, efficient, and future-thinking design solution.

If you will be at AIA24, the AIA Conference on Architecture in DC June 5-8, you can learn more at

Session WE311 / The AIA Guide to Building Reuse for Climate Action
WED 5 June: 130-3pm (1.5 LUs/HSW/RIBA) / Room 209
Speakers: Z Smith, FAIA, EskewDumezRipple; Kelsey Wotila, AIA, Foresight Management; Nakita Reed, AIA, NOMA, Quinn Evans; Helena Zambrano, AIA, Mahlum 

Also, this topic will be the subject of breakout tables at the COTE Open Forum at AIA24: 
COTE Open Forum: Climate Advocacy & Market Transformation / Event EV203
THU 6 June: 11am-1230pm (no LUs) / Room 144
Speakers: Lindsey Falasca; Dan Stine, AIA; Robin Puttock, AIA
Breakout Tables: Advocacy, Building Reuse, Resilience, the Framework, COTE Chapters, Climate Action/Climate Justice, and more. FREE, open to all; please sign up ahead of time so that we know how many tables to host.

You can find this resource here: 
AIA website
Today's Buildings for Tomorrow: Guide to Building Reuse for Climate Action 

Thank you also to the Resource Panel members: Allison Anderson, FAIA, unabridged Architecture; Mark Brandt, RAIC, TRACE Architectures; Steph Carlisle, Carbon Leadership Forum; Alyse Falconer, PE, Point Energy Innovation; Luke Leung, PE, SOM; Nathan Lott, Preservation Resource Center New Orleans, History Macon; Patrick Murphy, PE, Vanderweil Engineers; Julia Siple, AIA, Quinn Evans; Larry Strain, FAIA, Siegel & Strain; Allison Wilson, AIA, Ayers Saint Gross; Helena Zambrano, AIA, Mahlum. 

Kelsey Wotila, AIA, is a Senior Sustainability Project Manager at Foresight Management in Grand Rapids, Michigan.