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The Building Science Podcast

The Building Science Podcast

Use Your Tools - The New COTE Tool Kit

The Building Science Podcast got a couple of Press Passes and went to New York City last week for the AIA Conference on Architecture, 2018. What an incredible conference it was! We had the opportunity to connect with so many thoughtful and visionary architects who want to build a better, healthier future. We're psyched. 

One of the most thoughtful conversations we had was with Corey Squire and Tate Walker about the new Committee On The Environment's new Toolkit. It's a resource-rich document that helps firms and projects of any kind measure their progress against benchmarks of sustainability without restrictive prescription pathways, while keeping outcomes at the central focus. 

Measure 1: Design for Integration: What's the big idea? How does the project demonstrate the intersection of design excellence and sustainable performance? 

Measure 2: Design for Community: How does this project make the most of its surrounding community, integrate with it. and give back? 

Measure 3: Design for Ecology: How does this project respond, connect, and contribute to the surrounding ecosystem? 

Measure 4: Design for Water: How does the project use water wisely and handle rainfall responsibly? 

Measure 5: Design for Economy: How does the design show that higher performance can be cost-effective? 

Measure 6: Design for Energy: How much energy does the project use, is any of that energy generated on-site from renewable sources, and what's the net carbon impact? 

Measure 7: Design for Wellness: How does the design promote the comfort and health of those who spend time in it? 

Measure 8: Design for Resources: How were the decisions about the materials used based on an understanding of their impact. especially carbon impact? 

Measure 9: Design for Change: How does the project design anticipate adapting to new uses, adapt to climate change, and support resilient recovery from disasters? 

Measure 10: Design for Discovery: What lessons for better design have been learned through the process of project design, construction, and occupancy?

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Sustainability Process Manager, Lake|Flato Architects

Corey works with all Lake|Flato teams to establish sustainability goals, analyze designs with simulation software, and collects post-occupancy performance data. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from Oberlin College and a Master of Architecture from Tulane University. In 2012, Squire was awarded the Eskew+Dumez+Ripple Research Fellowship to study building post-occupancy energy performance and sustainable design processes.

Tate Walker

AIA, LEEP AP BD+C, Sustainability Director, OPN Architects


As an architect focused on energy and sustainability in the built environment, he steers OPN’s sustainability initiatives, focusing on energy research, technology evaluation, and high performance design. He regularly writes and presents on issues relating to energy, technology, building science, and promoting environmental awareness through design. His experience includes integrating teams, design charrettes, building systems, and sustainability initiatives on capital projects.

Tate has worked nationally for clients such as Northwestern University, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Iowa State University. He served  the United States Green Building Council in various capacities since 2008 and has been a leader within the Wisconsin Green Building Alliance since 2005, including serving as the organization’s vice president in 2009.

At OPN, Tate led the adoption and administration of the 2030 Challenge to transition to net zero energy buildings. He also is chair of the firm’s annual Green Day event and an internal sustainability committee.

He is currently leading the sustainable design for the new Advanced Teaching and Research Building for the Biosciences at Iowa State University, which is targeting LEED Gold. The 115,000 square foot, $52 million project will be an anchor building on campus, incorporating innovative site, water, advanced materials and daylighting components to support a unique, sustainable experience for its users.

About The Committee On The Environment

COTE Mission

The Committee on the Environment (COTE) works to advance, disseminate, and advocate—to the profession, the building industry, the academy, and the public—design practices that integrate built and natural systems and enhance both the design quality and environmental performance of the built environment. COTE serves as the community and voice on behalf of AIA architects regarding sustainable design and building science and performance.

COTE reflects the profession’s commitment to provide healthy and safe environments for people and is dedicated to preserving the earth’s capability of sustaining a shared high quality of life. The committee’s mission is to lead and coordinate the profession’s involvement in environmental and energy-related issues and to promote the role of the architect as a leader in preserving and protecting the planet and its living systems.

COTE provides the AIA with knowledge about environmental issues and advises the Institute on environmental policy matters affecting the practice of architecture. The committee supports cooperation with educators and institutions of learning, manufacturers, government agencies, environmental organizations, and industry groups in advancing environmentally sound design processes and standards as well as environmentally innovative materials and integrated systems.

COTE Goals

  • To advance the importance of sustainable design to our fellow architects, within the Institute, and to the broader public.

  • To educate architects about the environmental and energy-related impacts of design decisions & about how to incorporate sustainable design into daily practice.

  • To define and promote the cutting edge of sustainable design for our profession.

  • To foster leadership among architects in all facets of environmental decision making.

  • To recognize environmental leadership of architects in practice, education, industry, and government.

  • To influence the direction of architectural education to place more emphasis on ecological literacy , sustainable design and building science

  • To maintain, refine, and strengthen alliances with professional and trade associations and other leaders in environmentally responsible design to coordinate our sustainable agendas to make our message stronger.

  • To maintain, refine, and strengthen alliances with other AIA Knowledge Communities and committees, and serve as a resource to Institute initiatives and projects that promote sustainability in the built environment.

  • To green AIA convention venues and meetings.

  • To communicate the AIA’s environmental and energy-related concerns to the public and private sectors and influence the decisions of the public, professionals, clients, and public officials on the impact of their environmental and energy-related decisions.

  • To educate architects on regulatory, performance, technical and building science issues and how those issues influence architecture. Educate the architectural profession on programming, designing, and managing building performance.

  • To investigate and disseminate information regarding building performance best practices, criteria, measurement methods, planning tools, occupant-comfort, heat/air/moisture interfaces between the interior and exterior of buildings.

  • To promote a more integrated practice in order to achieve environmentally and economically efficient buildings. One of the tools we will plan to promote to achieve this integration is Building Information Technology (BIM).


COTE Toolkit

Please check out this resource rich document. It's absolutely incredible and this is only Version 1! More great improvements to come. If you're not an AIA member and can't access it, write us and we'll see what we can do about getting you a copy. The more people who can work with the tools provide here, the better outcomes our projects will be. podcast@positiveenergy.pro

"Why We Let Ourselves Do Mediocre Work"

Great article from Building Green Magazine that dispels the myth of the "unicorn client" that will come around and make all your wildest dreams come true to design and build sustainably. 


Does going green change the face of design or only its content? The first book to outline principles for the aesthetics of sustainable design, The Shape of Green argues that beauty is inherent to sustainability, for how things look and feel is as important as how they’re made.

In addition to examining what makes something attractive or emotionally pleasing, Hosey connects these questions with practical design challenges. Can the shape of a car make it more aerodynamic and more attractive at the same time? Could buildings be constructed of porous materials that simultaneously clean the air and soothe the skin? Can cities become verdant, productive landscapes instead of wastelands of concrete?

Drawing from a wealth of scientific research, Hosey demonstrates that form and image can enhance conservation, comfort, and community at every scale of design, from products to buildings to cities. Fully embracing the principles of ecology could revolutionize every aspect of design, in substance and in style. Aesthetic attraction isn’t a superficial concern — it’s an environmental imperative. Beauty could save the planet.

The Last Auto Mechanic

Great blog post by Tom Price (renewable energy entrepreneur. A-EV cheerleader. Founder Black Rock Solar. Recovering journalist, middling mountain biker. Formerly of Capitol Hill, SLC, & BRC) about the ways America’s transportation economy and landscape is about to be utterly transformed into a world beyond driving. Or drivers. Or even car mechanics. Enjoy the ride.

Game of Thrones

New Yorker article about the intricate design of seating on commercial flights and the impacts it has on travelers. 

Habits of High Performing Firms

AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) released a report called “The Habits of High-Performance Firms” which follows up on the previous “Lessons from the Leading Edge," which is a comprehensive study of two decades of AIA COTE Top Ten Award winners. Launched in 1997, the annual awards are the profession’s longest-running and “best known recognition program for sustainable design excellence,” according to the AIA.

Biophilic Design 

Biophilic Design is an innovative way of designing the places where we live, work, and learn. We need nature in a deep and fundamental fashion, but we have often designed our cities and suburbs in ways that both degrade the environment and alienate us from nature. The recent trend in green architecture has decreased the environmental impact of the built environment, but it has accomplished little in the way of reconnecting us to the natural world, the missing piece in the puzzle of sustainable development. Come on a journey from our evolutionary past and the origins of architecture to the world’s most celebrated buildings in a search for the architecture of life. Together, we will encounter buildings that connect people and nature - hospitals where patients heal faster, schools where children’s test scores are higher, offices where workers are more productive, and communities where people know more of their neighbors and families thrive. Biophilic Design points the way toward creating healthy and productive habitats for modern humans.

Architecture 2030

Edward Mazria, FAIA, Hon. FRAIC
Founder and CEO

Edward Mazria is an internationally recognized architect, author, researcher, and educator. Over the past decade, his seminal research into the sustainability, resilience, energy consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions of the built environment has redefined the role of architecture, planning, design, and building, in reshaping our world. He is the founder of Architecture 2030, a think tank developing real-world solutions for 21st century problems, and host of the AIA+2030 Professional Education Series and 2030 Districts movement in North American cities.

Mazria issued the 2030 Challenge and introduced the 2030 Palette, a revolutionary new platform that puts the principles behind low-carbon/zero carbon and resilient built environments at the fingertips of architects, planners, and designers worldwide. In 2014 he presented the Roadmap to Zero Emissions at the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change calling for zero emissions in the built environment by 2050, and drafted the 2050 Imperative, endorsed by professional organizations representing over 1.3 million architects in 124 countries worldwide. In 2015 he launched the China Accord, which has been adopted by key international firms pledging to plan, design and build to carbon neutral standards in China; and delivered the opening presentation at the UNFCCC COP21 “Buildings Day” titled The 2 Degree Path for the Building Sector.

Recently, he developed Achieving Zero, a framework of incremental actions that cities and governments can put in place to ensure carbon neutral built environments by mid-century, and the Zero Cities Project (with the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, Urban Sustainability Directors Network, New Buildings Institute, and Resource Media) to implement the framework.

Mazria speaks nationally and internationally on the subject of architecture, design, energy, economics, and climate change and has taught at several universities, including the University of New Mexico, University of Oregon, UCLA, and the University of Colorado-Denver.

Mr. Mazria’s awards include AIA Design Awards, American Planning Association Award, Department of Energy Awards, American Solar Energy Society Pioneer Award, Equinox Award, National Conservation Achievement Award, Mumford Award from Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility, inaugural Hanley Award, Distinguished Career Award from Pratt Institute, Zia Award from the University of New Mexico, Game Changers Award from Metropolis Magazine, 2011 Purpose Prize, and the 2015 Kemper Award from the American Institute of Architects. He is a senior fellow of the Design Futures Council, Honorary Fellow of the RAIC, and received an Honorary Doctor of Architecture degree from Illinois Institute of Technology.

COTE Toolkit Contributors

Tate Walker, AIA, Project Co-Lead OPN Architects, Madison, Wisconsin, COTE Advisory Group
Corey Squire, AIA, Project Co-Lead Lake|Flato Architects, San Antonio, Texas, COTE Advisory Group
Anne Hicks Harney, FAIA, Long Green Specs, Baltimore, Maryland
Betsy del Monte, FAIA, Cameron MacAllister Group, Dallas, Texas
David Hincher, AIA, Kieran Timberlake, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Gunnar Hubbard, FAIA, Thornton Tomasetti, Portland, Maine, COTE Advisory Group
Helena Zambrano, AIA, Overland Partners, San Antonio, Texas
Mary Ann Lazarus, FAIA, Cameron MacAllister Group, St. Louis, Missouri, COTE Advisory Group
Stephanie Horowitz, AIA, ZeroEnergy Design, Boston, Massachusetts, COTE Advisory Group
Stephen Endy, AIA, Mahlum, Portland, Oregon
Vikram Sami, AIA, Olson Kundig, Seattle, Washington, COTE Advisory Group
Z Smith, FAIA, Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, New Orleans, Louisana

Thanks to Aprilaire for their support of the show.