Ten Sustainability Measures

A design competition to recognize student work that displays sustainable design at the highest level.
Presented by AIA COTE + ACSA.

Sustainable design is an inherent aspect of design excellence. Projects should express sustainable design concepts and intentions, and take advantage of innovative programming opportunities.

Narrative: Describe how sustainability strategies are incorporated into the overall design strategy. What are the major environmental issues and goals?

May include: 
• Key environmental issues; how and why they became important priorities
• Key ecological goals and concepts for your project and how they shaped your thinking.
• How these goals and concepts were expressed in the design
• Sustainable design innovations
• How sustainability measures led to a better overall project design
• Process of program analysis; resource efficiencies realized by innovative programming
• Efforts to “right size” the project and to reduce unnecessary square footage. 

Graphic: Diagram showing major design / sustainability concepts

Sustainable design values the unique cultural and natural character of a given region.

Narrative: How does the design respond to the region where it’s located? How does the design promote regional and community connectivity? What steps are taken to encourage alternative transportation?

May include: 
• How the design relates to the local context and to larger regional issues 
• How the design promotes regional and community connectivity
• How the design promotes a sense of place, public space and community interaction
• How the design educates its users about the environmental strategies it employs
• Efforts to provide for those using transportation alternatives
• Site selection criteria to reduce automobile use
• How mandated parking was reduced

Metric:  Walk score: (from Walkscore.com)


Sustainable design protects and benefits ecosystems, watersheds, and wildlife habitat in the presence of human development. 

Narrative: How does the development of the site respond to its ecological context? Consider water, air, plants, and animals at different scales.

May include: 
• How the development of the site responds to its ecological context, including the watershed, and air and water quality at different scales from local to regional level
• How the development of the site and buildings contribute to environmental quality 
• How the design accommodates wildlife habitat preservation and creation
• How the design protects or creates on-site ecosystems
• How the design responds to local development density or conditions
• How the design encourages local food networks

Graphic: Native Landscape Profile (flora, fauna)

Sustainable design conserves resources and maximizes comfort through design adaptations to site-specific and regional climate conditions.

Narrative: Describe how the building reacts to the local climate and site with an emphasis on occupant comfort. Discuss how the building massing and fenestration relates to the sun path and the prevailing winds.

May include:
• Project response to local climate, sun path, prevailing breezes, soil, hydrology, and seasonal and daily cycles through passive design strategies
• Description of internal versus external building loads
• Design strategies that reduce/eliminate the need for non-renewable energy resources
• How these strategies specifically shaped the plan, section, and massing
• How these strategies specifically affected project placement, orientation, and shading
• Integrated pest management considerations 

Graphic: Psychrometric or bioclimatic chart profile of local climate that illustrates bioclimatic design strategies; Building section, or other appropriate diagram that demonstrates bioclimatic strategies

Metric: Percent of the year that occupants will be comfortable using passive systems

 Measure 5:  LIGHT & AIR 
Sustainable design creates comfortable interior environments that provide daylight, views, and fresh air. 

Narrative: Discuss design strategies that relate to daylighting, electric lighting, ventilation, indoor air quality, views, and individual controllability.  

May include: 
• Design strategies for daylighting, task lighting, and views
• Design strategies for ventilation, indoor air quality, and personal control systems
• How the project’s design enhances users’ connectedness to nature
• Design team approach to integration of natural systems and appropriate technology

Graphic: Model photos, drawings or diagrams of daylight and ventilation strategies; test models. 

Metric: Percent of the building that can be daylit (only) during occupied hours; Percent of floor area with views to the outdoors; Percent of floor area within 15 ft. of an operable window.

 Measure 6:  WATER CYCLE 
Sustainable design conserves water and protects and improves water quality. 

Narrative: How does the design manage storm water? How does the design conserve potable water? How is the project innovative in the way that it uses and treats water?

May include: 
• How building and site design strategies manage site water and drainage
• Design strategies that capitalize on renewable water sources (i.e. precipitation) on site
• Water-conserving landscape and building design strategies
• Reuse strategies for water including use of rainwater, graywater, and wastewater


Percent of storm water that is managed onsite: (2 year, 24-hour event. Use supplied spreadsheet to calculate)

Sustainable design conserves energy and resources and reduces the carbon footprint while improving building performance and comfort. Sustainable design anticipates future energy sources and needs.

Narrative: How does the design seek to decrease the total energy use and carbon footprint of the building? Emphasize strategies to reduce heating and cooling loads, reduce peak electricity demand, reduce plug loads, generate onsite energy, and anticipate future carbon free energy sources.

May include:
• How the design reduces energy loads for heating, cooling, lighting, and water heating
• How the design and integration of building systems contributes to energy conservation and reduced use of fossil fuels, reduces green house gas emissions and other pollution improves building performance and comfort. 
• Use of on-site renewable and alternative energy systems. 
• Anticipation of future and carbon neutral fuel sources
• Strategies to reduce peak electrical demand. 
• How the design remains functional during power outages or interruptions in fuel supply   


Total EUI: (build a simple energy model to calculate EUI using eQuest, Sefeira, Autodesk® Green Building Studio, or another energy modeling program);  Energy generation (if any) in kWh/yr: (use
PVWatts® Calculator or solar-estimate.org for solar or wind);  Net EUI (with renewables if applicable)

Sustainable design includes the informed selection of materials and products to reduce product-cycle environmental impacts, improve performance, and optimize occupant health and comfort.

Narrative: Describe the project’s material selection criteria, considerations and constraints. What efforts were made to reduce the amount of material waste and the environmental impact of materials over their lifetime? Discuss specific materials used.

May include:
• Efforts to reduce the amount of material used on the project.
• Materials selection criteria, considerations, and constraints for: optimizing health, durability, maintenance, and energy use reducing the impacts of extraction, manufacturing, and transportation
• Enclosure performance in relation to air, moisture, water and thermal characteristics
• Consideration of life cycle impacts and results of life cycle assessment if available 
• Construction waste reduction plans; strategies to promote recycling during occupancy

Graphic Wall section of the building envelope design and either a hygro-thermal analysis or life cycle assessment.

 Measure 9:  LONG LIFE , LOOSE FIT 
Sustainable design seeks to enhance and increase ecological, social, and economic values over time. 

Narrative: Describe how the design promotes long-term flexibility, adaptability, and resilience.

May include: 
• How the project was designed to promote long-term flexibility and adaptability 
• Anticipated project service life; description of components designed for disassembly 
• Materials, systems, and design solutions developed to enhance versatility, durability, and adaptive reuse potential
• How the project anticipates and celebrates weathering over time


Sustainable design strategies and best practices evolve over time through documented performance and shared knowledge of lessons learned. 

Narrative: What steps would you take to ensure that the building performs the way that it is designed? What lessons have you learned from this project that you will apply to the next project? What lessons have you learned from past projects that were applied to this project?

May include: 
• Modeling and evaluation of the design during the programming and design phases
• Collaborative efforts between design team, consultants, client, and community
• Lessons learned during the design of the building
• How these lessons would change your approach to this project or future projects
• A question that would be investigated in a post-occupancy evaluation of this project.