In one sense, the best thing that could happen to the COTE awards would be to eliminate them altogether. At the 2011 COTE Top 10 Eco-Buildings and Community Developments, the presenters spoke about the need to rewrite the terms of architecture to integrate COTE standards at a fundamental level. Projects that satisfy COTE requirements should not be exceptions—they should be the rule.

Yet 2011 saw some exceptional projects. The bar is higher than ever: Jurors representing academia, large and small firms, and engineering perspectives selected for projects that inspired the occupant, dissolved the boundary between landscape and building, and addressed entire neighborhoods. The jury—whose names and affiliations are listed here—even identified a number of “stretch” goals they hoped to discover among the 2011 projects:

·        A minimum performance baseline 40 to 50 percent better than code

·        Large-scale, complex buildings

·        An emphasis on adaptive re-use

·        Adaptability to climate change

·        Projects demonstrating the architect’s role as advocate

Even the most ambitious project would be hard pressed to check off all these qualifications. But what distinguishes the 2011 COTE award winners is the effort that the designers put into accomplishing one or several of these standards.

For example, the Lance Armstrong Foundation headquarters in Austin, Texas, by Lake|Flato Architects, demonstrates the COTE emphasis on adaptive reuse. A little-loved warehouse space in the emerging East Austin district—which Armstrong identified the facility while riding to scout an east-west Austin bicycle corridor he was promoting—became an open-office project fully integrated into the surrounding landscape. As work on the project commenced, Lake|Flato went to the client—a titan of the Tour de France—and recommended that they gear up the project in order to pursue LEED Silver certification. “Silver?” Armsrong responded. The project took LEED Gold.