News Analysis

AIA’s Framework for Design Excellence: A Hook for Firm-wide Change

With design awards on the line, architecture firms are starting to require sustainability tracking across all projects.

Did you notice your AIA design award submissions looked different this year? You were likely asked for information that you only used to provide when submitting for a COTE (Committee on the Environment) Top Ten Award—such as the project’s predicted net energy use intensity (EUI) or embodied carbon estimate. These questions are currently being asked for all of the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) national design awards and some have made their way into submission forms for state-level design awards. More importantly, applicants’ answers may impact which projects win.

The changes to the submission forms reinforce AIA’s new Framework for Design Excellence (the Framework), which asserts that sustainable design is integral to good design. (See AIA’s “Big Move”: Redefining Design Excellence.) The ten principles that comprise the Framework are only slightly tweaked from the COTE Top Ten Measures of Sustainable Design. Moving forward, AIA says candidates for design awards will be evaluated holistically through the lens of the Framework; i.e., not just by aesthetics, but also by how the project furthers values like sustainability and social equity.

Published October 5, 2020

Pearson, C. (2020, September 28). AIA’s Framework for Design Excellence: A Hook for Firm-wide Change. Retrieved from