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On Friday June 7, the American Institute of Architects announced the latest cohort of AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) Top Ten winners. The annual award program, now in its 29th year, honors projects designed by U.S.-based architects that “set the standard for design excellence” by meeting the AIA’s stringent criteria for “social, economic, and ecological value.”

Notably, this year the winners were not revealed on—or around—Earth Day as was the norm but instead during a red carpet-style gala held at the National Building Museum on the closing night of the 2024 AIA Conference on Architecture & Design in Washington, D.C. The winners of eight other award programs typically announced at various times during the year were also bestowed at the gala, including the Architecture Awards, Housing Awards, Small Project Awards, and Twenty-Five Year Award, which went to the Tokyo International Forum by Rafael Viñoly Architects.

As for the 2024 COTE Top Ten winners (technically nine recognized projects), as usual they span various typologies and include renovations, adaptive reuse, new buildings, urban plans, and more. Among the awardees: the transformation of a decaying New England mill building into a multi-faceted contemporary art space; a clean energy–producing commercial office building in Portland, Oregon; a net zero energy apartment complex dedicated to sheltering low-income residents in affordable housing–strapped Santa Monica; and a local economy-bolstering campus for a wildlife conservation nonprofit in rural Rwanda. Charlottesville-based VMDO Architects picked up two awards for its thoughtful renovation of a residence hall at George Washington University in D.C., and across the Potomac, a six-story elementary school in Arlington promoting the well-being of its users.

Another winning project is a six-story STEM academic building-slash-community wellness hub in Rockville, Maryland, designed by perennial COTE Top Ten-er, Lake|Flato Architects. The project, the USG Biomedical Sciences & Education Engineering Building, designed by Lake|Flato with Cooper Carry, marks the Texas firm’s 16th COTE Top Ten win. Led by 2024 AIA Gold Medalists David Lake and Ted Flato, the firm was also bestowed with an Architecture Award and a Regional & Urban Design Award for the Holdsworth Center and Music Lane, respectively, at the June 7 gala in D.C. Both of those projects are in Austin.

This year’s awardees were selected by a four-member jury panel including Nadine Saint-Louis (chair) of McHarry Associates, Yu-Ngok Lo of YNL Architects, Jack Rusk of EHDD, and Eddy Santosa of Mott MacDonald.

Below is a list of the nine 2024 COTE Top Ten winners. You can learn more about each of the projects here.  

Alice West Fleet Elementary School
VMDO Architects | Arlington, Virginia

Alice West Fleet School.

View of southeast facade with park areas at Alice West Fleet School. Photo © Alan Karchmer

Hayward Library & Community Learning Center
Noll & Tam Architects | Hayward, California

Hayward Library.

Central Atrium of Hayward Library & Community Center. Photo © Bruce Damonte

MASS MoCA Building 6
Bruner/Cott Architects | North Adams, Massachusetts

MASS MoCA Bldg 6.

MASS MoCA Building 6. Photo © Michael Moran

PAE Living Building
ZGF Architects | Portland, Oregon

PAE Living Building.

The PAE Living Building is designed with longevity in mind, featuring inherently resilient and low carbon structural materials that minimize maintenance. Photo © Benjamin Benschneider

The Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
MASS Design Group | Kinigi, Musanze, Rwanda

The Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

The campus provides the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund with a permanent home to closely engage local communities, both human and non-human, in their conservation mission of helping people and saving gorillas. Photo © Iwan Baan

The Tom and Ruth Harkin Center at Drake University
BNIM | Des Moines, Iowa

Harkin Center.

Ramp at Drake University's Harkin Center looking northeast. Photo by Nick Merrick, © Hall+Merrick

Thurston Hall Renovation
VMDO | Washington, D.C.

Thurston Hall.

View of the courtyard at Thurston Hall at George Washington University. Photo © Alan Karchmer

USG Biomedical Sciences & Engineering Education Building
Lake|Flato Architects and Cooper Carry | Rockville, Maryland

USG Biomed bldg.

The 228,000-square-foot building at USG houses academic programs in dentistry, mechanical engineering, biotechnology, biological sciences, electrical engineering, and associated fields. © Keith Isaacs

Pacific Landing Affordable Housing
Patrick Tighe Architecture | Santa Monica, California

Pacific Landing.

Night view of Pacific Landing Affordable Housing. Photo by Chuen Wu, © Patrick Tighe Architecture