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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.

  • <p>At Arizona State University, a sterile and unwelcoming health clinic was transformed into a light-filled LEED-Platinum building. <a href="http://www.lakeflato.com/" target="_blank">Lake Flato Architects</a> and <a href="http://www.owp.com/" target="_blank">Orcutt Winslow Architects</a></p>
  • <p>It contains outdoor green spaces for yoga and meditation.</p>
  • <p>In Portland, Oregon, a new homeless shelter uses graywater recycling, solar hot water, and a highly efficient design. <a href="http://www.holstarc.com/" target="_blank">Holst Architecture</a></p>
  • <p>It will save around $60,000 in energy costs each year. <a href="http://www.holstarc.com/" target="_blank">Holst Architecture</a></p>
  • <p>A new park in Brooklyn is helping transform a decaying industrial piece of the waterfront.  <a href="http://www.kisscathcart.com/" target="_blank">Kiss + Cathcart, Architects </a></p>
  • <p>A green roof tops a community building in the park, creating a hill where visitors can look at views of Manhattan. <a href="http://www.kisscathcart.com/" target="_blank">Kiss + Cathcart, Architects </a></p>
  • <p>A huge federal building in Portland, Oregon, used to be an energy hog, but has been transformed into a model of efficiency. <a href="http://serapdx.com/" target="_blank">SERA Architects</a> and <a href="http://cutler-anderson.com/" target="_blank">Cutler Anderson Architects</a></p>
  • <p>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. <a href="http://serapdx.com/" target="_blank">SERA Architects</a> and <a href="http://cutler-anderson.com/" target="_blank">Cutler Anderson Architects</a></p>
  • <p>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. <a href="http://behnisch.com/" target="_blank">Behnisch Architekten</a> and <a href="http://asg-architects.com/" target="_blank">Avers Saint Gross</a></p>
  • <p>It's one step towards the university’s goal of climate neutrality. <a href="http://behnisch.com/" target="_blank">Behnisch Architekten</a> and <a href="http://asg-architects.com/" target="_blank">Avers Saint Gross</a></p>
  • <p>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. <a href="http://www.ehdd.com/" target="_blank">EHDD</a></p>
  • <p>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. <a href="http://www.ehdd.com/" target="_blank">EHDD</a></p>
  • <p>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. <a href="http://architerra-inc.com/web/" target="_blank">Architerra</a></p>
  • <p>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. <a href="http://architerra-inc.com/web/" target="_blank">Architerra</a></p>
  • <p>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. <a href="http://mithun.com/" target="_blank">Mithun</a> and <a href="http://www.bnim.com/" target="_blank">BNIM</a></p>
  • <p>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. <a href="http://mithun.com/" target="_blank">Mithun</a> and <a href="http://www.bnim.com/" target="_blank">BNIM</a></p>
  • <p>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. <a href="http://snowkreilich.com/" target="_blank">Snow Kreilich Architects</a></p>
  • <p>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. <a href="http://snowkreilich.com/" target="_blank">Snow Kreilich Architects</a></p>
  • <p>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. <a href="http://www.beckgroup.com/" target="_blank">The Beck Group</a> and <a href="http://wrldesign.com/" target="_blank">Westlake Reed Leskosksy</a></p>
  • <p>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. <a href="http://www.beckgroup.com/" target="_blank">The Beck Group</a> and <a href="http://wrldesign.com/" target="_blank">Westlake Reed Leskosksy</a></p>
  • 01 /22

    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

  • 02 /22

    It contains outdoor green spaces for yoga and meditation.

  • 03 /22

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

  • 04 /22

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

  • 05 /22

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

  • 06 /22

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

  • 07 /22

    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

  • 08 /22

    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

  • 09 /22

    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

  • 10 /22

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

  • 11 /22

    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

  • 12 /22

    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

  • 13 /22

    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

  • 14 /22

    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

  • 15 /22

    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

  • 16 /22

    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

  • 17 /22

    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

  • 18 /22

    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

  • 19 /22

    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

  • 20 /22

    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

  • 21 /22
  • 22 /22

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.

Slideshow Credits: 01 / Courtesy of AIA Communications; 02 / Courtesy of AIA Communications; 03 / Courtesy of AIA Communications; 05 / Courtesy of AIA Communications; 06 / Courtesy of AIA Communications; 07 / Courtesy of AIA Communications; 08 / Courtesy of AIA Communications; 09 / Courtesy of AIA Communications; 11 / Courtesy of AIA Communications; 12 / Courtesy of AIA Communications; 13 / Courtesy of AIA Communications; 14 / Courtesy of AIA Communications; 15 / Courtesy of AIA Communications; 16 / Courtesy of AIA Communications; 17 / Courtesy of AIA Communications; 18 / Courtesy of AIA Communications; 19 / Courtesy of AIA Communications; 20 / Courtesy of AIA Communications; 21 / Courtesy of AIA Communications; 22 / Courtesy of AIA Communications;

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