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Architecture "hasn't caught up" with sustainability goals says AIA

Many architects are still not addressing the environmental impacts of their buildings, claims the American Institute of Architects, in response to Aaron Bestky's recent critique of its COTE Top Ten sustainability awards.

Mary Ann Lazarus, the chair of the AIA Committee on the Environment Advisory Group, wrote a letter to Dezeen after Betsky advocated that awards should not be bestowed on buildings that are sustainable but ugly.

Lazarus said the aim of the COTE Top Ten Awards is to encourage architects to consider the environmental impact of their projects holistically, but not enough are doing so.

"Mr Betsky states that great sustainable performance should not be recognised without great design," she wrote. "In fact, the COTE Top Ten Award program was founded 21 years ago by AIA's Committee on the Environment based on this exact premise – that great design must perform beautifully."

"While the Top Ten was originally conceived to last only a few years as a way to transition all AIA Honor Awards to integrate performance outcomes, the design world hasn't caught up with this goal yet," she added.

Betsky, who is dean of the recently renamed School of Architecture at Taliesin, used his Opinion piece for Dezeen to call for more adaptive reuse projects and less new, mediocre buildings.

Echoing his sentiment, Lazarus stressed the importance of sustainability in architecture, particularly as its impact on the environment is "becoming increasingly critical".

But she added that convincing architects to consider a building's appearance and its eco credentials together remains a challenge.

"It's still very hard to get many design firms to reconcile their aesthetic aspirations with performance outcomes," she said.

Here's the full letter: