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News > Climate Action and Leadership > Breaking Down the Design Awards and the Framework for Design Excellence

Breaking Down the Design Awards and the Framework for Design Excellence

By: Sherman Aronson and Daniel Lee

American Architects have contributed to a dramatic 30% reduction in energy use and CO2 emissions since 2005.  The combined effects of IECC updates and good design have reduced climate impacts while the total built environment has increased.  It can be done, and we are doing it!

In 2006 the AIA joined with the Architecture 2030 movement to inaugurate the AIA 2030 Commitment with hundreds of firms and thousands of individuals joining the effort.  Meanwhile, for over 25 years, the AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) continued the annual Top Ten Design Awards to recognize the best designed, best performing, and more environmentally friendly work by Architects.

In 2019, the AIA adopted the Framework for Design Excellence (F4DE, or the Framework) as the set of guidelines to address project performance in many respects.  While recognizing that design is not only about visual aesthetic components, the Framework helps us consider how buildings work for people, including residents, occupants and users, as well as the local communities and environment.

The Framework is made up of Ten Measures:  Integration, Equitable Communities, Ecosystems, Water, Economy, Energy, Well Being, Resources, Change and Discovery.  It can organize our thinking, facilitate conversations within our design teams, and with our clients.  It helps us set meaningful goals and targets that all relate to climate action, using an holistic approach of design to work with the interdependence of people, buildings, infrastructure, and the environment.  It is based on ideas, not on numbers. It can help all project teams open their thinking to a broad range of topics that encompass sustainability.

Along with several of our peer Chapters, AIA Philadelphia and AIA Pennsylvania have taken the lead on incorporating the Framework into our Design Awards program over the last five years.  As part of that program, we developed the Sustainability Framework Form as a concise way to address the Ten Measures with simple yes/no questions and selective project data.

The jurors review the information provided in the Sustainability Form in addition to the traditional Project Submission for all projects.  The jury evaluates entries based on how successfully projects have met their individual requirements and how they relate to the Framework.  The jury can select projects for recognition in a range of categories and types, and for their green design success.

All projects must demonstrate design achievement, including a sense of place and purpose, of ecology and environmental sustainability, and of history.  AIA National and local chapters have stressed that submitted projects do NOT have to show a high level of achievement in all Ten Measures but need to address them all in the Form.  To help the jurors, the form includes spaces for brief narratives –which can be used to refer to information contained in the Project Submission packet.  Submitters are strongly encouraged to consider their submission materials in this context.  AIA intends the Framework as a direction for us all as we work together on project planning and design, and as a tool for our education into the broader implications of good design.

Link to the Framework to Design Excellence/Sustainability Form

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