To help all architects achieve the high quality of the Top Ten winning projects, AIA COTE will be releasing several important resources this winter.

The Toolkit
Based on the 10 measures that serve as the basis for the criteria of the COTE Top Ten, the Toolkit will be an online resource that will gather the best resources for achieving success in those areas of environmental and social sustainability. “This tool is about making sustainability accessible from a time perspective,” says Corey Squire, AIA, a member of the COTE advisory group, and the sustainability process manager at San Antonio, Texas–based Lake|Flato Architects. “It gets you the answer you need in one place—quickly, easily, and in digestible chunks.”

Each of the 10 sustainable measures will be broken down into best practices, with resources such as recommendations for third-party references and tools, and case studies of past COTE award-winning projects that have achieved particular success in that measure. “There are also going to be a few recommendations that we call out, as: ‘If you can only do one thing,’ ” Squire says. “These are the highest impact, lowest cost, lowest barrier to entry things where if you don’t have the time, budget, or knowledge to really improve your problem, you can still incorporate these ideas and they’ll have a really big impact on your project.”

The Calculator
Another tool under development is a so-called “super spreadsheet,” that will make calculating metrics for a project in order to track its resource intensity much easier. When a user enters basic project data, the calculator will automatically crunch the numbers to provide metrics such as EUI and carbon usage—the same metrics that are both required and encouraged for the COTE Top Ten awards. Those results will then be set alongside results from both a baseline project and a high-performance building so that architects can see how their design compares.

“We want every project to be using some sort of way of calculating their performance,” says COTE advisory group member Tate Walker, AIA, who is a sustainability director in OPN Architects’ Madison, Wis., office.

“A fun goal early in this project was ‘quantify everything,’ ” Lake|Flato’s Squire says. “One reason we feel that energy has been such a hot-button topic in the field of sustainable design is because it’s easy to quantify. If we can quantify community, ecology, or resilience just as easily as we can energy, then all of those things gain equal importance.”

But the tool isn’t just intended to test projects after they are built. “It’s really powerful for goal setting earlier in design,” Walker says. It’s convenient, too. “Instead of going all over the web finding 10 decent calculators, it starts to align all them in one space so that people are using a similar baseline.”

The Searchable Database
As the COTE Top Ten awards celebrates its 22nd year, another working group is looking at “how the winning projects of the past can help influence the future,” Brooks says, by organizing information from the more than 220 winners into an interactive online database where users can learn best practices for sustainability from the case studies. “There’s so much information, and we need to be able to disseminate that knowledge into a resource that can be used by the entire architecture community,” says Varun Kohli, AIA, a COTE advisory group member and a principal and sustainable design leader in HOK’s New York office. “A lot of that information is already online, but if we can make it more usable, and filterable, then it becomes much more powerful.”

The team has already developed several search filters, which will allow projects to be sorted by maximum predicted EUI, category, site context, climate zone, and so forth. The hope is that the number of filters, and the robustness of the data, will continue to grow over time as new winning projects are added each year. “It’s pretty clear over the past 20 years that the amount of hard data that we are asking for is getting more granular,” Kohli says. “If we start to build this up, it could turn into a solid set of information.”

Read expanded coverage of the winners of the 2018 AIA COTE Top Ten Awards.