AIA COTE’s Top Ten for Students: Fostering Leadership and Experience | GBRI

As promoters of sustainable design innovations, The American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment (AIA COTE) expanded its scope 3 years ago when it created the top Ten Top for Students awards. As standards in sustainability continue to grow, the program fosters leadership and experience in the field.  AIA COTE, in partnership with the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) select the recipients of AIA COTE Top 10 for Students. AIA COTE recognizes that today’s architecture students will inherit tomorrow’s environment and the challenges in designing with changing climates. Therefore this program recognizes projects that demonstrate solutions to protect the environment. Judges evaluate the student project based on the 10 measures of sustainable design listed below.


Measure 1:   Design and Innovation

Measure 2:   Regional/Community Design

Measure 3:   Land Use and Site Ecology

Measure 4:   Bioclimatic Design

Measure 5:   Light and Air

Measure 6:   Water Cycle

Measure 7:   Energy Flows and Energy Future

Measure 8:   Materials and Construction

Measure 9:   Long Life, Loose Fit

Measure 10: Collective Wisdom and Feedback Loops


The narratives, diagrams and metrics necessary can require a quite extensive submission process, but the projects put forth are exemplary. The competition recognizes ten exceptional studio projects that seamlessly integrate innovative, regenerative strategies within their broader design concepts.


Listed here are the winners of 2015-16 Top 10 Students.


  1. Project Title: Tether

Recipient: Tim Schneider

Faculty Sponsor: Gerald Gast

School: University of Oregon

  1. Project Title : Banding for Knowledge

Recipient: Isaias Garcia Coronado

Faculty Sponsor: Ian Caine and Rahman Azari

School: University of Texas at San Antonio

  1. Project Title: Inverted Ecologies

Recipient: Vaama Joshi & Shirin Monshipouri

Faculty Sponsor: Margaret Ikeda, Evan Jones and Adam Marcus

School: California College of the Arts

  1. Project Title: The Living Link

Recipient: Mengwei Liu & Anastasia Sysoeva

Faculty Sponsor: Ulrike Passe

School: Iowa State University

  1. Project Title: Charlotte’s Sustainable Cooperative Center: Extending Charlotte’s Cultural Corridor

Recipient: Jessica Nutz

Faculty Sponsor: Gerald Gast

School: University of North Carolina at Charlotte

  1. Project Title: Regenerating Water Avenue

Recipient: Lacey Ale, Alex Collins and Addison Estrada

Faculty Sponsor: Bill Leddy, Marsha Maytum and Roger Ota

School: University of Oregon

  1. Project Title: O2O4W: Oxygen House in the Old Fourth Ward District

Recipient: Laura Sherman

Faculty Sponsor: Edwin E. Akins II

School: Kennesaw State University

  1. Project Title: Creativity Sustaining Community

Recipient: Erin Barkman and Emily Latham

Faculty Sponsor: Carl Bovill, Peter Noonan and Jordan Goldstein

School: University of Maryland

  1. Project Title: The Art of Eco: Seattle University Integrated Visual Arts Center

Recipient: Kejia Zhang and Xiaoxi Jiao

Faculty Sponsor: David Strauss

School: University of Washington

  1. Project Title: Augmented Tides

Recipient: Rafael Berges Jared and Clifton

Faculty Sponsor: Margaret Ikeda, Evan Jones and Adam Marcus

School: California College of the Arts


A wonderful example of a Top Ten for Students project was “Tether” by Tim Schneider and sponsored by Gerald Gast at the University of Oregon. The project is the construction of the Environmental Research and Learning Center, at the site of a former concrete recycling facility along the Mississippi River in North Minneapolis. Pollution from human life has had a detrimental effect on the Missippippi and its connected water systems. As the pollution moves further downstream, it has also had an impact on the communities and ecosystems far away from the source of contamination. The center will serve a great many purposes. The Minnesota center for Environmental advocacy will have office spaces there as well as research labs for water testing and environmental assessment of the river system. In addition there will be a public gallery, exhibit and event space for social and educational opportunities for the community. Pedestrian passes will connect residents to the Center and Greater Minneapolis trail system, which has been cut off for decades by US Interstate 94. The project name “Tether” fittingly describes the project, as it tethers to community to the environment. Key features include:


  • A building mass buffered from the winter winds and that opens out to the south in order to maximize solar gains.
  • A double-skin façade that helps regulate indoor temperatures and air quality.
  • A series of storm-water detention ponds that are scattered throughout the oak savannah and use a biofiltration system to naturally treat runoff and graywater from the building. This could potentially reduce the building’s water use by 50%.
  • The usage of sandstone and concrete for building materials. Both are durability and located close to the site. In addition, sandstone is a natural geologic formation of the area.
  • The trails will connect to visually stimulating outposts, such as St. Anthony Falls, the largest waterfall on the Mississippi, and at Harriet Island in St. Paul, which is prone to flooding every spring.
  • Each site will contain a water quality meter showing current pollution levels so that the community can be actively engaged with the health of the river.


This competition is open to third-year students and above, including graduate students, who are attending Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) Member Schools in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Each entry must include abstracts, metrics, programs briefs and four 24”X24” digital boards.  Each submission must include for demonstrations for all 10 measures.  Submission deadline is Jan 18, 2017 and the winners will be announced on Earth Day.


The jury for the AIA COTE Top Ten for Students includes: Lance Jay Brown, City College of New York; Sierra Rose Jensen, University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Vivian Loftness, Carnegie Mellon University; James Pfeiffer, BNIM and Bill Sturm, Serena Sturm Architects.


Here are some helpful links for more information on AIA Top 10


Interested to learn more about AIA COTE’s new measures of sustainable design and Projects that won the AIA TOP 10?






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