The West Coast is highly represented in the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on the Environment (COTE) 2013 Top Ten Green Projects, with six projects from the West taking home the annual honors. The COTE Top Ten Green Projects program celebrates structures that use a thoroughly integrated approach to architecture, natural systems, and technology to provide architectural solutions which protect and enhance the environment. Entries are examined in regard to their design and innovation, integration with their community, land use and effect on site ecology, bioclimatic design, energy and water use, approach to light and air, materials and construction, long-life considerations, and feedback loops. This year’s entrants also included information on their cost and payback analysis as well as their design process.

This year’s Top Ten Green Projects include a range of project types, such as single and multifamily housing, education projects, mixed-use community projects, office spaces and government projects.

View All Top Ten Green Projects.

The 2013 Top Ten Green Projects, in alphabetical order, are: 

This year also marked the inaugural COTE Top Ten Plus Award, which recognizes a past COTE Top Ten Green Project for its ongoing performance. This year’s winner is 355 11th Street, the Matarozzi/Pelsinger Building, in San Francisco, by Aidlin Darling, which was named a Top Ten Green Project in 2010. Click here to learn more about the COTE Top Ten Plus Award and this inaugural winner.

This year’s winners were chosen by the 2012 jury: Fiona Cousins of Arup in New York; Lance Hosey, AIA, of RTKL in Washington, D.C.; Keelan Kaiser, AIA, of Judson University in Elgin, Ill.; Sheila Kennedy, AIA, of Kennedy & Violich Architecture in Roxbury, Mass.; Rod Kruse, FAIA, of BNIM Architects in Des Moines, Iowa; and Gail Vittori of the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems in Austin, Texas.

In reviewing this year’s winners, the jury applauded the diversity of scale, project type, budget, and location, although the jurors noted that many of the submissions did not meet current targets for the 2030 commitment. “This says a lot about where the industry is right now,” Hosey said. Another hot discussion point of 2013, resilient design—which the jury defined as having the ability to withstand events you can’t avoid, such as natural disasters and being able to recover to a usable condition quickly—had yet to appear frequently in this year’s submissions. “The topic of resilience has not really bubbled up to be a driver of performance,” Vittori said. “Even though in 2013, it’s a very buzzy concept, what we’re seeing now is a group of projects that were conceived and delivered prior to that. In a lot of ways, resilience, in addition to health, will emerge over time. So, understanding how those elements are represented and how to appropriately incentivize them and have a basis for understanding and measuring them is going to be important going forward.”

The jurors applauded the strategic use of budget and technology, noting, in particular, how renewable elements were much more integrated than in the past. “The building integration was, I think, stronger than in some previous years,” Hosey said. “I suppose it could be due to economics, but I also think it’s just a more sober look at how to integrate technology into buildings in terms of newer equipment types and thinking about PVs as a piece of mechanical equipment.” Adding to this, Cousins noted that “at this moment, it seems that green is no longer about adding the gizmo, the PV, the array. It is, in some ways, much less ostentatious and much less exemplar than it used to be. There is a very strong understanding that integration and the sensible approach to the addition of technology is something that is much more valuable than sticking it one because you can.” Along these lines, the jury also applauded the use of common materials. “[Often], it didn’t involve any exotic potential long-term maintenance or issues or a learning curve. They were just simple, well-organized planning methods using the natural amenities that surround them,” Kruse noted, saying that when you add these elements in as the core of a project, when you are forced to reduce something, they are already built into the project’s DNA.

Equal access to high-performance buildings was another key concern for the jury as a whole. “This group of projects underscored the social value of providing high-functioning buildings for people who are often without the benefit of that, whether it’s in the housing realm or in social services,” Vittori noted. “And that shows that there is actually an opportunity to fill a gap that has left a lot of people behind.”

For more thoughts from the jury on this year's entrants and winners, click below. For more information on each project, including extended slideshows, click on the individual projects in the sidebar at left. Our extended coverage will continue in the Summer edition of ECOSTRUCTURE. For more information on each project, as well as a database of past Top Ten projects, visit