Submission Deadline: January 15, 2020

2020 COTE Competition

COTE Top Ten for Students


January 15, 2020

Submission Deadline

Spring 2020

Jury Convenes

Postponed till May 2020

Winners Announced

Competition Overview

Architects play a crucial role in addressing both the causes and effects of climate change through the design of the built environment. Innovative design thinking is key to producing architecture that meets human needs for both function and delight, adapts to climate change projections, continues to support the health and well-being of inhabitants despite natural and human-caused disasters, and minimizes contributions to further climate change through greenhouse gas emissions. Preparing today’s architecture students to envision and create a climate adaptive, resilient, and carbon-neutral future must be an essential component and driving force for design discourse.

Given their long lifespan, new buildings must be designed to address solutions to climate change and to respond to its projected impacts, well into the second half of the 21st Century and beyond. As with the COTE Top Ten award for built work by design professionals, COTE Top Ten for Students allows designs to be characterized in terms of 10 measures ranging from Community to Water to Wellness.

About the Competition

The American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment (AIA COTE), in partnership with the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), is pleased to announce the sixth annual AIA COTE Top Ten for Student Competition. The program challenges students, working individually or in teams, to submit projects that use a thoroughly integrated approach to architecture, natural systems, and technology to provide architectural solutions that protect and enhance the environment. The competition will recognize ten exceptional studio projects that seamlessly integrate adaptive, resilient, and strategies for moving towards carbon-neutral operation within their broader design concepts.

Criteria for Judging

Successful responses should demonstrate design moving towards carbon-neutral operation through a creative and innovative integration of design strategies such as daylighting, passive heating and cooling, materials, water, energy generation, and other sustainable systems, through a cohesive and beautiful architectural understanding. Issues to consider include community enhancement, land use and effect on site ecology, bioclimatic design, energy and water use, impact on health and wellness, approach to environmental quality, materials and construction, adaptation, long-life considerations, and feedback loops. Entries will also be judged for the success and innovation that the project has met the COTE Top 10 Measures, adaptation, and resilience, with particular emphasis on design excellence.


Elgin Cleckley
University of Virginia

Carly Coulson

Michael Horan
Clemson University

Tom Kundig
Olson Kundig

Adrian Parr
University of Texas at Arlington


The competition is open to students from ACSA Member Schools from the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The competition is open to upper level students (third year or above, including graduate students). Students are required to work under the direction of a faculty sponsor. Submissions will be accepted for individual as well as team projects. Teams must be limited to a maximum of three students.

Students are invited to submit their studio projects. Entries must be buildings, but can be of any program, at any scale, in any location. Projects can be a remodel or adaptive re-use. Work should have been completed in a design studio or related class from January 2019 – 2020.

Awards + Recognition

Ten projects will be chosen for recognition at the discretion of the jury. Winners and their faculty sponsors will be notified of the competition results directly.Winning projects will be announced and displayed at the 2020 AIA National Convention. Winning projects will also be promoted on the ACSA website at & the AIA COTE website at,

A total of $10,000 will be distributed to the winning teams, with each of the top 10 winning projects will receive a $1,000 honorarium. Winning students will be recognized during the 2020 AIA National Convention in Los Angeles at the COTE reception. Winning students (individuals and team members) will be offered a paid summer internship at an architecture firm doing leading work in sustainable design. Students will specify their top choices from participating firms and internships will be assigned by lottery.


in cash prizes
Participating Firms

If your firm is interested in possibly offering a summer internship to one of the winner of the 2020 COTE Top Ten for Students Competition please contact Eric Ellis,

Competition Organizers & Sponsors

Edwin Hernández
Programs Coordinator

Eric Wayne Ellis
Senior Director of Operations and Programs