News Brief

Top Ten Toolkit Helps All Projects Boost Performance

The criteria for the COTE Top Ten awards have been refashioned into a best-practice design guide for use on any project.

H-E-B at Mueller by Lake|Flato Architects and H-E-B Design + Construction

H-E-B at Mueller, by Lake|Flato Architects and H-E-B Design + Construction, a 2016 COTE Top Ten winning project. The Top Ten Toolkit describes the strategies, like climate analysis, used by Top Ten winning projects to achieve both design excellence and advanced environmental performance. 

Photo: © Casey Dunn
What can you do to make any project greener, even one with a small budget and an unmotivated client? A new guide helps designers focus on the strategies that have proven to be most effective.

The American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Committee on the Environment (COTE) has released the phase one draft of the AIA COTE Top Ten Toolkit. Based on the COTE Top Ten Measures of Sustainable Design—the criteria used to evaluate the performance of projects in COTE’s Top Ten Awards—this initial component of the Toolkit is a best-practices design guide. Developed to be accessible to all architects, regardless of experience with sustainable design strategies, the guide is a set of recommendations based on patterns identified in previous Top Ten winning projects.

In the near future, the Toolkit will also include a “super spreadsheet.” This downloadable Excel file will auto-calculate, based on several simple inputs, many of the complicated metrics—like carbon emissions—referenced in the Top Ten criteria. The Toolkit will also eventually include a searchable database of case studies of previous Top Ten winning projects.

Actionable information

The best-practices guide is divided into sections aligned with the Top Ten Measures of Design. For each measure, the guide provides a concise set of actions to take “if you can only do one thing,” identifying the most effective strategies in each category. These are the things to focus on for projects with very limited budgets or tight schedules.

In addition, each section includes a more comprehensive list of suggested best practices in that category and a set of links to related web tools and resources. Subject-matter experts from across the building industry helped to distill and organize this information.

According to the COTE Advisory Group, the goal of the Toolkit is to address what it sees as a major barrier to widespread adoption of sustainable design techniques: limited access to the information needed. As all project teams are constantly strapped for time, the Toolkit is designed to provide the most current information about the most effective sustainable design strategies in a form that is concise and immediately useable.

The COTE Advisory Group expects to release phase two of the Toolkit by the end of the year. In the meantime, an online survey has been set up to collect user feedback on phase one.

For an in-depth discussion with the architects who are spearheading development of the Toolkit, listen to this episode of The Building Science Podcast.

For more information:


Published August 6, 2018

Wilson, J. (2018, August 6). Top Ten Toolkit Helps All Projects Boost Performance. Retrieved from

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