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Topic: Institute Honor Awards 

1.  Institute Honor Awards

Posted 04-14-2017 17:10
I just read through the AIA Awards Issue of Architect Magazine. What a lot of great architecture. It is very inspiring.

However, I do wonder what happened to the information on energy, community connectivity, water and materials that was part of each project's required submission? Project square footage and cost appear to be the only "metrics" that are published. What's up with that? Where is the building performance information? Shouldn't the great architecture of the 21st century be able to express this? And, shouldn't Architecture magazine include this as an integrated and holistic part of architectural values?

Rand Ekman AIA, LEED AP BD+C
Chief Sustainability Officer
Chicago IL

2.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

Posted 04-19-2017 11:06

Kudos, Rand, for pointing this out.  If we are to clearly illustrate the importance of green building design for better communities, a more stable energy future, and the health and well-being of our buidlign occupants, there should be no articles that do not mention those achievements, or the failure to achieve anything for the greater good.

The time for buildings that attempt only to look good in print, yet harm us and our environment in construction and use is past.




Jodi Smits Anderson, AIA, LEED-AP BD+C

Director Sustainability Programs


DASNY | We Finance, Build and Deliver.

515 Broadway, Albany, NY, 12207


(518) 257-3486 | jsmitsan@dasny.org



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3.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

Posted 08-23-2017 17:39
This is slightly off-this-topic, but I think it is on this theme.

How do we change the popular conception about what is "award-worthy", or even "beautiful"?  How do we change the perception of endless expanses of glass to one of unconscionable waste and laziness?

I have been given several opportunity\ies to judge project awards, including the AIA's COTE Top Ten.  I also do peer reviews of proposals for conference presentations for both the AIA and USGBC.  I recently served on a jury for a national industry trade publication annual project awards.  My fellow jurors were two VP's of sales and marketing for well-regarded regional construction companies.  We were asked to evaluate and rank a few dozen entries in various categories.

Several of the entries included buildings that were dramatically over-glazed, to the point of being essentially "glass boxes".  I consistently lowered my ratings for these buildings, though they might have been well constructed. I couldn't bring myself to reward a bad idea, not matter how well executed.  One of these buildings, in particular, caused a good deal of consternation in the judging.  The project was done for a well-known private institutional client, who spent a great deal of money on the project, which the institution could well afford.  The "signature" design feature of this project were multi-story glass curtain walls, facing East, South and West.  My fellow jurors both ranked the project highest in its category, while I ranked it lowest, particularly as it related to innovation and contributions to the community. I explained my reasoning, based on my opinion that a façade of glass is needlessly first cost expensive (both in the cost of glass as an exterior envelope enclosure material, as well as causing the mechanical and electrical systems sized to be increased to handle the beyond-code allowance heating and cooling loads) as well as being a poor steward of the institution's resources in operating the building throughout its lifetime. I also pointed out the poor human indoor comfort caused by radiant temperature excursions and glare.

My fellow jurors replied that the project was "beautiful", well-constructed and that the client was pleased with the project, as documented in a letter of recommendation. The magazine's policy for the award program is that award winners had to achieve a "consensus" among its jurors.  Ultimately, my vote was excluded in the decision to award this project, as our firm had a competing project in the category (that I had not scored), based on what could be interpreted as a conflict of interest.

Was I being unreasonable, or simply tilting at this particular windmill?

Kim Shinn
Principal/Sr Sustainability Consultant
TLC Engineering for Architecture
Brentwood TN

4.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

Posted 08-25-2017 15:20

Years ago, at lunch with my dissertation supervisor Buckminster Fuller, I said that my architecture life seemed wasted. He said, "Find a problem no one else is solving, and solve it. Then you will no longer have that problem." Two things came to mind. First, the AIA then was 98% white male; and second, architects thought architecture was a cross between a beauty contest and a building permit service. So I accepted a teaching position a a women's college, and decided to focus on the relationship between the built, natural and human environments.

The profession has changed enormously over my 40-year career; not all better for the three-part environment. When the AIA was founded in 1857 there were no other design professions competing for work, no building codes, no zoning, and the population of the United States was just shy of 30 million people. Now 160 years and 300,000 Americans later we know there is more to architecture than style or appearance. Sure, beauties important, but it is not everything.

Architects should also be design scientists. If we only care about looks, there is no telling how we will get out of this century with human civilization in tact. We know how to design. Let's design a world where everyone can succeed.

Nick Peckham, FAIA

5.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

Posted 08-25-2017 15:20
Hello Kim,
In my opinion you are on the right side of this issue, and thank you for your commitment to moving the profession’s awards in this direction. What is “beautiful” can’t be divorced from environmental and community responsibility, and thoughtful stewardship of resources.

Martha Ondras Assoc. AIA

6.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

Posted 08-25-2017 15:21
Kim, thank you for taking that position.  I couldn't agree more with your reasoning.  Perhaps one day we can turn the Titanic....

Steven Stelzer AIA
Green Building Resource Center
City of Houston
Houston TX

7.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

Posted 08-25-2017 15:21
I think this is about to become a much bigger issue with the general adoption of 2015 IBC and IECC for new buildings.  When I saw last round of residential awards I was struck by the fact that several did not seem to meet the IRC & IECC codes we are using in many jurisdictions.  I sniffed around and found that both were built on a private estate in Nova Scotia that did not enforce the newer codes.  So I asked the designer how they addressed the fenestration and envelope construction with current AIA awareness of the sustainability and energy efficiency or even through the 2030 initiative.


Apparently award winning design does not include compliance with code.  Shame on the Jury for not having the knowledge and qualifications as a whole to evaluate architectural design beyond the: "gee it's pretty" level (of course you were the exception!)


As awards programs advance, the criteria for what is being judged needs to be more clearly defined for the applicants and the Jurors and the award title needs to be more descriptive in what was actually judged.  Let's here it for the "Best Application of Lipstick on a Pig Award"

This subjectivity is a growing concern of mine as well

Ty Morrison, AIA
archeTYpe LLC
825 W. Victory Rd.
Boise, Idaho  83706

8.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

Posted 08-25-2017 15:21
Kim, stand by your guns, you may be a lone voice in the woods but it's a worthwhile position. For some reason most architects scoff at the mention of a window to wall ratio. I can't understand the love of curtain wall, I thought the international style was so 60's?

 Ken A. Scalf, AIA, LEED AP

   311 Caysens Square Lane

        Franklin, TN 37064


9.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

Posted 08-25-2017 15:21

Not off-topic at all!


This goes right to the heart of the AIA's responsibility to shape the dialogue around issues that bear directly on our profession's responsibility to take the lead on this issue (and others), rather that relegating it to a subcommittee.


Thanks for your valuable perspective on this pressing issue.


10.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

Posted 08-31-2017 11:23
Thank you Kim and all.  Your concerns raise hope for the profession to adapt and move beyond the well-positioned photo.

Sally Grans-Korsh FAIA
National Association of College and University Business Offices
Washington DC

11.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

Posted 09-05-2017 13:34

You are NOT tilting at windmills. As evidenced by the other comments here, and many discussions in different places in the profession, you are right on target!  If as architects, we don't merge our concerns about sustainability and the future and our definition of a great project, we continue to undermine our own progress.

The COTE Top 10 awards are incredibly valuable in trying to push those ideas forward, but until the COTE Top 10 has major overlap with the AIA Design Awards, we need to keep at it. In the meantime, we need to all keep asking those questions of our colleagues: how can you say it's a great piece of architecture if it doesn't contribute to solving the urgent problems of our time?
Keep it up, Kim...
We're all in it together!

Betsy del Monte

Betsy del Monte FAIA
Transform Global
Dallas TX

12.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

Posted 09-07-2017 15:39
Kim and COTE colleagues: thanks for this great discussion. As Betsy pointed out, the need to integrate sustainable performance and design was at the heart of the creation of the COTE Top Ten 22 years ago and continues to be as important as ever. Great design must mean great performance - you can't have one without the other. We're making progress but still have a long way to go - our challenges are internal to the profession mostly. With the current situation in Texas, the Caribbean, Florida and the fires in the West coast, the need for resilient and sustainable design seems so clear. I encourage us all to continue to work with our local, state and national design awards to make this happen. The COTE Top Ten measures (updated last year to reflect a broad range of issues) are a great template for this - why not synchronize?
Mary Ann
2017 Chair, COTE Advisory Group

Mary Ann Lazarus FAIA
Saint Louis MO

13.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

Posted 09-07-2017 15:39
We've just launched our AIA Detroit COTE with a tremendous turnout. As Detroit shakes off the dust from its recent past, the city's legacy architecture still stands. There is also a growing undercurrent of sustainability solution advocates from all sectors. In light of the discussion regarding overlapping COTE Top 10 with AIA Design Awards, we concur. The environmental/sustainable development architectural 'history' has suffered from its image of creating unappealing design aesthetics. There is absolutely no excuse for this. As design professionals, our skills should demonstrate that environmental stewardship meshes seamlessly with excellence in design aesthetics. Examples are all around us in nature and in architecture of the past. Al Hambra, Katsura palace, and most early designs that integrated materials, climate, culture, and craft in proximity of their location would achieve LEED Platinum, perhaps even Living Building Challenge.
We're extremely excited in our new COTE group to explore the integration of Natural Capital, high performance technologies, climate, aesthetics, culture, and craftsmanship. Time for COTE Top 10 to be the top AIA Design Awards.

Paul Bierman-Lytle I Chairman I Executive Director
PANGAEON I SEAS Corporation 
+01-303-619-7478 (mobile) http://www.pangaeon.com
London I Washington D.C. I Boston I Detroit I Honolulu I St. Louis I Los Angeles I San Francisco I Dubai I Abu Dhabi I San Jose, Costa Rica I Florence, Italy

14.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

Posted 09-15-2017 15:14
Buildings Are for People

Rand's questions began this thread: "what happened to the information on energy, community connectivity, water and materials that was part of each project's required submission? . . . Where is the building performance information?" 

Thanks Rand - good question. So how do we move away from pandering for award recognition with form that falsely presents function. A perfect example of this is Gates Hall at Cornell (LEED Gold). Check out OBSTACLES TO SUCCESSFUL EXECUTIONWhen Looks Ignore Function , a brief article on LinkedIn.

After studying the dilemma for eight years, that 'looks ignore function' yet "we know how to design" (contributed by Nick), I proffer two central contributors: Education and Silence

'Education' covers architecture school programs as well as continuing education. One is dictated by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), the other influenced by our AIA. Although 'sustainable design' and 'human centric design' are our stated concerns, both NAAB and the AIA, overwhelmed with an ever increasing body of new techniques, technologies and materials, have succumbed to accepting 'intention' as 'competence'.

In 2009, sustainable design education credits became mandatory to sustain AIA membership. In 2013, that requirement was removed:

"Recognizing that sustainable design practices have become a mainstream design intention in the architectural community, the Board of Directors has voted to allow the sustainable design education requirement to sunset at the end of calendar year 2012. AIA members will no longer need to complete the sustainable design requirement to fulfill their AIA continuing education."

In 2004 and 2009, NAAB's Student Performance Criteria (SPC) progressively strengthened sustainable design requirements, yet it too reversed course in 2014. In 2004, sustainable design was included among 34 SPC knowledge and skill categories, requiring students to demonstrate an "Understanding of the principles of sustainability in making architecture and urban design decisions". In 2009, "Understanding" was upgraded to "Ability", requiring an "Ability to design projects that optimize, conserve, or reuse natural and built resources", and it related those skills to integrated practices. Merely understanding sustainable design was no longer sufficient; NAAB required competency. However in 2014, NAAB deleted sustainability from the SPC. The sole mention of sustainability referred to preparing "a review of the relevant building codes and standards, including relevant sustainability requirements" and assessing "their implications for the project". Sustainability went from "Understanding of the principles" to "Ability to optimize, conserve or reuse natural resources", to being able to 'review codes and requirements and assess their implications'. Competent ability became the ability to review.

When mainstream design "intention" negates the need for knowledge, skills and continuing education, it is time to rethink the paradigm.

The need for better education of both students and the practicing profession is paramount. Although manufacturers' brochures and PR make the use of sustainable design techniques, new materials and technologies appear intuitive, or simply add-on appendages - they are not. Many of these representations are outright misleading. Their technical engineering manuals tell the real story – the cautions, prohibitions and actual performance data. But in general, architects are not engineers. In order to avoid the pitfalls, we need a better understanding as to where such use is appropriate, and how to achieve the benefits. Without continuing and up to date education, the fall back is employing sustainable appendages as a marketing ploy – looks ignoring performance and function.

Which leads us to the second contributor to the lack of performance – our silence. Frustrated with reality, the path of least resistance is acceptance of the norm through our silence. As long as we please the client's budget, taste, program agenda and marketability, we can receive praise regardless of performance or validity.

The honest concerns expressed on this thread are exactly what is needed, hopefully on a broader basis; even more so in committee meetings, on juries and in public forums. Otherwise we will continue to ignore reality. It is up to us to challenge both our architecture school studio and seminar content, as well as the content of our AIA continuing education courses – especially content provided by manufacturers and suppliers. And as well disclosed in this thread, we must challenge the performance of our award contenders. What we build has a long life, there is a heavy price to pay for poor performance.

Bill Caplan Assoc. AIA
Author of "Buildings Are for People"

Managing Member
ShortList_0 Design Group LLC
Bronx NY

15.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

Posted 09-18-2017 10:03
​The correct link to the LinkedIn article referred to in my post above, "OBSTACLES TO SUCCESSFUL EXECUTION – When Looks Ignore Function", is


Bill Caplan Assoc. AIA
Managing Member
ShortList_0 Design Group LLC
Bronx NY