The Committee on the Environment (COTE) was founded in 1990 by a group of individuals interested in promoting energy research in combination with the practice of architecture. Although under a different title, the group had been established since the 1970s as the American Institute of Architects’ Energy Committee. As time progressed, the group began to collaborate with various organizations and governments to promote building energy research, environmental design, sustainability, and a variety of “green” issues.
The mission of COTE is to promote and spread the word – to other architects, contractors, and the general public – about architectural practices that improve the design of the building and the way it affects the environment. Those who are part of COTE believe that people deserve to live in a safe and healthy environment, while still sustaining the earth’s resources. Through the committee, the hope is to make architects aware of environmental issues, especially those that are related to energy. It is the committee’s belief that architects can become role models for preservation and conservation of natural resources, while still performing their job duties.
COTE works hand in hand with the American Institute of Architects. They provide the organization with information on issues relating to the environment and environmental policy, specifically how such concerns have an effect on architects. Informing architects on the ways their design decisions may impact the environment is one of the primary goals of COTE. The group also strives to educate the public and several private groups in the hopes of forcing them to consider the ways that their designs may affect the environment.
Leadership is one of the chief means that COTE hopes to disseminate its message. By encouraging leadership in the architectural community and by recognizing those who demonstrate leadership in their design decisions, the committee will increase the number of architectural professionals who will consider the environment in their designs. Leadership roles can extend beyond those in the practice of architecture and may include those in roles of education, government, and other aspects of the industry.
Every year the American Institute of Architects and COTE select ten projects that exemplify environmentally sustainable architectural designs. The top projects are recognized at the Institute’s National Convention. The project may, for example, show a new approach to the practice of architecture while still maintaining comfort and safety for the inhabitants of the building and lowering the affect that the design may have on the environment. Some examples may include reusing materials or even building structures, conserving water and energy, using sustainable materials, finding ways to connect the building occupants to mass transit, and improving the quality of the air inside the building.