The 2022 AIA COTE Top Ten winners elevate the standards for superlatively sustainable building

Crème de la COTE

The 2022 AIA COTE Top Ten winners elevate the standards for superlatively sustainable building

663 Cooper, a 1950s-era building in East Midtown Memphis, was converted into a net-zero energy, net-zero carbon office space by local firm archimania. (Matt Seltzer/AIA)

The American Institute of Architects (AIA)’s 2022 COTE (Committee on the Environment) Top Ten Awards were announced late last week to coincide with Earth Day, and a small handful of last year’s winning firms—Neuman Monson Architects, Payette, and Memphis’s archimania—are back for a consecutive round in the winner’s circle. Lake|Flato (no stranger to this particular awards program) has also returned to the COTE Top Ten after winning for multiple projects in 2020.

As always, the annual winning COTE Top Ten (now in its 26th year) projects are a diverse bunch in terms of building program and locale. All of them, per the AIA, represent “significant achievements in advancing climate action” and serve to “illustrate the solutions architects provide for the health and welfare of our communities and planet.” They include: San Francisco’s first combined homeless veteran and low-income family housing complex, an exhaustively renovated Brutalist-style branch location of the Boston Public Library, and a new public works facility for the fifth-largest city in Iowa.

Beantown-based projects helmed by hometown firms enjoyed a strong showing this year with three of the winners being located in and around Boston. San Francisco-based projects and firms also appeared more than once on the winning roster.

The Lake|Flato-designed Knox College Whitcomb Art Center in Galesburg, Illinois. (Andrew Pogue)

In addition to the eight winning projects, two additional projects were recognized as “Top Ten Plus” recipients for their “exceptional” post-occupancy performance data: the EHDD-led renovation and expansion of San Francisco’s Lick-Wilmerding High School and the new Louisiana Children’s Museum in New Orleans, a project by Mithun working with local firm Waggoneer & Ball as associate architect. (EHDD is also leading the LEED Platinum-targeting overhaul of AIA national headquarters in Washington, D.C.)

To qualify, projects submitted to the COTE Top Ten Awards must meet stringent criteria established by COTE, including economic, social, and ecological values, and achieve performance standards across ten key areas. The projects can be located anywhere in the world (this year was strictly domestic) but the submitting architect or firm must be licensed in the United States and is required to have signed the AIA 2030 Commitment.

The COTE Ten-winning projects are evaluated by a four-person jury panel, which this year was comprised of: Chair Margaret Cavenagh, AIA (Studio Gang), Angela Brooks, FAIA (Brooks + Scarpa), Nakita Reed, AIA, NOMA (Quinn Evans), and Z Smith, FAIA (Eskew Dumez Ripple).

people ride bikes by a long, windowless building
Iowa City Public Works by Neumann Monson Architects. (Integrated Studio, Cameron Campbell)

Below is the complete list of the 2022 awardees, with each winning project name linking back to its full COTE Top Ten profile:

663 South Cooper | archimania (Memphis)

Edwin M. Lee Apartments | LEDDY MAYTUM STACY Architects, Saida+Sullivan Design Partners (San Francisco)

Iowa City Public Works |Neumann Monson Architects (Iowa City, Iowa)

King Open/Cambridge Street Upper Schools & Community Complex | Arrowstreet, William Rawn Associates (Cambridge, Massachusetts)

Knox College Whitcomb Art Center | Lake|Flato Architects (Galesburg, Illinois)

Meyer Memorial Trust Headquarters, Portland, Oregon | LEVER Architecture (Portland, Oregon)

Roxbury Branch of the Boston Public Library Renovation | Utile, Inc. (Boston)

Tufts University Science and Engineering Complex, Medford, Massachusetts | Payette (Medford, Massachusetts)

Top Ten Plus recipients:

Lick-Wilmerding High School Historic Renovation & Expansion | EHDD (San Francisco)

Louisiana Children’s Museum | Mithun, with associate architect Waggonner & Ball (New Orleans)