News Analysis

High Performance, High Design: The COTE Top Ten for 2021

The American Institute of Architects has announced its Top Ten high-performance building winners for this year.

The Committee on the Environment (COTE) of the American Institute of Architects has unveiled its annual Top Ten awards for high-performance projects. Many of this year’s winners were designed with local ecosystems in mind, and all take advantage of passive strategies to improve energy performance. Two are historic building reuse projects. See the slideshow for details on each project.

Slideshow (click to launch)

 exterior of Hayden Library at ASU

Arizona State University Hayden Library

Ayers Saint Gross

Historic preservation meets sustainable design in this university library project. Community-driven and carbon conscious, the renovation strove to transform the library “from a warehouse of books into a place for people,” according to the project team.

In addition to investing a relatively small amount of embodied carbon to improve energy performance, the project reimagined the water flows of the building—replacing palm trees with desert-appropriate plantings, managing stormwater with permeable pavers and a new retention vault, and setting up systems such that the building can eventually use non-potable water for cooling and for plumbing fixtures.

From the jury: “Fantastic example of what can be done on an existing building, and the addition is beautifully integrated into the larger context. Interior references back to mid-century instead of trying to go super trendy, which fits its origin and the external façade much better.”

Photo: Gabe Border. Used with permission.

More COTE winners

Biophilia a Hallmark of COTE Top Ten for 2020

Learning from the Best: The 2019 COTE Top Ten

2018 AIA COTE Top Ten Build Community

For more information

The American Institute of Architects

Published April 22, 2021

Melton, P. (2021, April 21). High Performance, High Design: The COTE Top Ten for 2021. Retrieved from

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April 28, 2021 - 2:26 pm

The buildings with a large percentage of windows - what are they doing to mitigate bird collisions?

April 28, 2021 - 3:01 pm

As I recall from reading about them, at least two of the buildings were really careful about bird safety. Lafayette College was particularly concerned since that building houses ornithological research. I can't speak for all of them, but awareness of bird safety has grown quite a bit since we first wrote about it in 2006!

May 3, 2021 - 5:31 pm

When will architects and the prize givers recognize that all/mostly glass facades are a crime to the planet?  Until then, I have little respect for these awards.

May 3, 2021 - 6:58 pm

Thanks Paula, that great news.  I wish that information had been included in the descriptions.  Building Green could also help  increase awareness with a few articles about window features.  This fits into what I think Building Green is all about.

I just found this article from 2020 that specifically addresses larger buildings.

Thanks again.  Your website is a great resource.