There are few organizations who’ve been more closely tracking the evolution of green building over the last decade than the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment (AIA/COTE). Each year, they round up the best projects they’ve seen and evaluate them according to a rigorous set of measures and metrics. Ten emerge victorious as the year’s top projects. A couple of this year’s winners will be familiar to Inhabitat readers, as we’ve noted their superior greenness in the past including The EpiCenter, shown above, and others…

The EpiCenter in Boston, home of Artists for Humanity, was recognized for its huge PV array, rain catchment system and vigilant use of recycled building materials; and for achieving all this with a non-profit budget on an inner-city site.

Kieran Timberlake, AIA/COTE, green building, AIA top ten

Kieran Timberlake Associates won an award for their Sidwell Friends Middle School project in Washington, DC. This one has a green roof and artificial wetland which reduce storm runoff, and lessen the facility’s need for water from the municipal supply. They’ve also paid attention to students’ transportation needs, siting the school near public transit, adding bike storage and placing parking underground to keep open spaces free for foot traffic and landscaping.

Living Homes, Ray Kappe, Prefab housing, AIA/COTE, AIA top ten

And of course the perennial center of sustainable building attention, Ray Kappe and LivingHomes‘ green prefab royalty, the Z6 House. I never actually knew it was officially called “Z6” — we always refer to it simply as “LivingHome” — but it turns out Z6 represents the home’s “six zero” goal: zero waste, zero energy, zero water, zero carbon, zero emissions, and zero ignorance. The home is LEED platinum certified, which is something to be proud of, and built to be replicated, which means platinum prefabs will soon start to multiply.

Heifer International, AIA/COTE, AIa top ten, green building

Of those that haven’t been covered here before, one that stood out was the Heifer International headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas. The plans for this facility were carefully infused with the aim of embodying Heifer’s values as an international non-profit which addresses hunger and poverty. “The project team’s goal was to design a sustainable headquarters that would exemplify Heifer’s mission and sustainable attributes for educational purposes and allow all employees to work as equals…Part of a four phase master plan for a brownfield site, the building was conceived as a series of concentric rings expanding outward from a central commons. The architecture weaves wetlands with people at work, expanding environmental stewardship into the public realm while serving as a beacon of hope.”

It’s nice to see that many of this year’s AIA/COTE award recipients addressed sustainability not just in terms of the degree to which a building has environmental integrity, but also how well it attends to its physical context, the social dynamics within and around it, and its role as a service-provider to those who use it. These projects all reflect the fact that as the green building evolves, so must our definition of “green.”