At Arizona State University, a sterile and unwelcoming health clinic was transformed into a light-filled LEED-Platinum building. Lake Flato Architects and Orcutt Winslow Architects

It contains outdoor green spaces for yoga and meditation.

In Portland, Oregon, a new homeless shelter uses graywater recycling, solar hot water, and a highly efficient design. Holst Architecture

It will save around $60,000 in energy costs each year. Holst Architecture

A new park in Brooklyn is helping transform a decaying industrial piece of the waterfront. Kiss + Cathcart, Architects

A green roof tops a community building in the park, creating a hill where visitors can look at views of Manhattan. Kiss + Cathcart, Architects

A huge federal building in Portland, Oregon, used to be an energy hog, but has been transformed into a model of efficiency. SERA Architects and Cutler Anderson Architects

It is on its way to becoming one of the lowest-energy use buildings in the U.S. It uses 60%-65% less energy than a typical office building. SERA Architects and Cutler Anderson Architects

At the University of Baltimore, a new building for the law school was designed to save 43% of the energy used in a typical building of the same size. Behnisch Architekten and Avers Saint Gross

It's one step towards the university’s goal of climate neutrality. Behnisch Architekten and Avers Saint Gross

The new building for the Packard Foundation helps bring together employees who used to work at sites scattered throughout the city in one centrally located downtown location near public transportation. EHDD

The new building for the Packard Foundation helps bring together employees who used to work at sites scattered throughout the city in one centrally located downtown location near public transportation. EHDD

At the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, a new LEED-Platinum campus center produces so much extra power that it can actually supply 60% of the entire campus’s heat and 20% of its power. Architerra

At the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, a new LEED-Platinum campus center produces so much extra power that it can actually supply 60% of the entire campus’s heat and 20% of its power. Architerra

A new “treehouse” for the Boy Scouts, with spectacular views of a nature preserve, uses solar and wind power and a 1,000-gallon cistern to become a net-zero energy and net-zero water center. Mithun and BNIM

A new “treehouse” for the Boy Scouts, with spectacular views of a nature preserve, uses solar and wind power and a 1,000-gallon cistern to become a net-zero energy and net-zero water center. Mithun and BNIM

A new U.S. Port of Entry in Minnesota is LEED-Gold certified, with reconstructed wetlands on site, recycled and FSC-certified materials, and rainwater collection. Snow Kreilich Architects

A new U.S. Port of Entry in Minnesota is LEED-Gold certified, with reconstructed wetlands on site, recycled and FSC-certified materials, and rainwater collection. Snow Kreilich Architects

A historic federal building and courthouse in Grand Junction, Colorado, has been transformed into one of the most energy-efficient and sustainable preserved buildings in the country. The Beck Group and Westlake Reed Leskosksy

The building now runs on solar and geothermal power and uses energy recovery, wireless controls, and LED lighting to keep energy use to a minimum. The Beck Group and Westlake Reed Leskosksy

The building now runs on solar and geothermal power and uses energy recovery, wireless controls, and LED lighting to keep energy use to a minimum. The Beck Group and Westlake Reed Leskosksy

The building now runs on solar and geothermal power and uses energy recovery, wireless controls, and LED lighting to keep energy use to a minimum. The Beck Group and Westlake Reed Leskosksy

2014-04-22

Co.Exist

The Top 10 Most Innovative Sustainable Buildings Of 2014

From a net-zero energy historic courthouse in Colorado to a homeless center in Oregon filled with green space, these days, the best sustainable architecture goes far beyond a few rooftop solar panels.

By next year, as much as 48% of new non-residential building construction will be green, according to estimates. Sustainable architecture is no longer rare, and that’s something that’s happened fairly quickly—from 2005 to 2012, the number of new green building designs jumped up 39%.

So when there’s an award for the best sustainable architecture, it’s no longer enough to have just a few ad hoc features, like rooftop solar panels or a rainwater collection system. A new roundup of the top 10 current examples of sustainable architecture—selected by the American Institute of Architects' Committee on the Environment—showcase projects that have a "thoroughly integrated" approach to sustainable design.

Bushwick Inlet Park

"This year, we saw a movement towards projects that were very urban, complicated large-scale projects," says Catherine Gavin, one of the members of the jury. As architects consider the entire system, she explains, they're working on everything from locating buildings near public transportation to restoring surrounding natural areas. "We were looking for buildings that were really thinking about the entire site, and how a building integrates into its context, rather than thinking of a building as an individual entity."

Several of the projects transform old buildings to make them sustainable, rather than starting from scratch.

"Historic preservation and sustainability have been sort of seen as at odds in the past," Gavin says. That’s changing. A federal building and courthouse in Colorado, for example, originally built in 1908, is now a net-zero energy building—with all of the historic details preserved.

John and Frances Angelos Law Center

Other designs incorporated social sustainability along with environmental features, like a homeless center in Portland, Oregon, that includes private outdoor green spaces for clients to wait for services, and day-lit apartments that others can use while they transition to permanent homes. The facility is also so energy efficient that it will save around $60,000 in power bills each year.

Each of the buildings is also well-designed aesthetically. "I think AIA is really trying to help people realize that good design doesn’t have to be sacrificed to attain a sustainable building," Gavin says. "It’s the same conversation—a sustainable building and a well-designed building."

Scroll through the winning designs in the slide show above.

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7 Comments

  • Fred Rosenberg

    Adele,

    Please check this building out -- you may not be aware of it. I've been in it many times.

    http://www.mum.edu/sustainable-living/buildings/sustainable-living-building

    Already at net zero energy, when fully finished our aim is for it to be the first of its kind - completely off the grid, surpassing LEED platinum, the highest LEED standard, and also complying with the Cascadia Living Building Challenge. These are two of the most rigorous certifications for ecologically friendly buildings.

    But, in addition, the building will comply with Bau (or building) Biology, a German system that focuses on creating buildings that are healthy for the occupants.

    And last but not at all least, it is designed to be in accordance with Maharishi Vedic Architecture, so that it is spiritually nourishing for the occupants.

    oh yes, all the raw materials for the building come from within 100 miles!

    No other building in the world can claim to satisfy all of these.

  • Shaun Osher

    It would be a "breath if fresh air" to see some of this sustainable design make it's way into new residential homes in major urban cities like New York and London.

  • Love Your articles, Adele! Those are really interesting. I just can't believe that it is possible to transform an old building, like You've written about the courthouse in Colorado into highly efficient. It really gives some ideas that all buildings can be transformed into high-efficiency ones, no matter when they are build and even if they're in cooler climates. Gives so much inspiration!

  • Nice, but you should have titled this post "The Top 10 Most Innovative Sustainable Buildings Of 2014 in the USA", because - believe it or not - there are other countries in the world (yes, mm-hhmm, indeed) who have been building sustainably decades before you guys even knew how to spell it.

  • Grant Hinner

    I agree! Either your title is just click-bait (and therefore you're being intentionally misleading), or you a limited understanding/appreciation for the subject you are writing about. Some of those buildings listed are on the right track, but from the looks of it they're a little behind the frontrunners.

    Indeed, here's one from somewhere other than America that seemingly trumps everything you've shown in your article..

    http://www.gbca.org.au/green-star/green-building-case-studies/pixel/

  • I have a question with no predisposed position. Just something about which I'm curious.

    Many of these building are described to have capabilities for using captured rainwater. Here in drought-stricken central Texas, most people are very sensitive to (and frequently reminded by signs on roadways) the charging of underground aquifers by rainfall in certain watershed areas - which is a lot of the central Texas region.

    Might similar buildings not be welcomed (or be banned) in such watershed areas because of a viewpoint that they should not retain rainwater otherwise heading for the aquifers, frequently facilitated by our mandatory man-made retaining ponds ?

  • I understand that ground water rights are sometimes legally separate from land rights and can have different owners, but I was not aware of any rain-water rights. Likely this is in our future, but for the present, any rain falling on my property is mine!