In honor of Earth Day on April 22, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on the Environment announced its selection of the year's ten best examples of sustainable projects that protect and enhance the natural environment.
The initiative was sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency/Energy Star. The winners included a wide variety of building types, ranging from a single-family home, to a school, offices and a water treatment facility.
The committee evaluated entries based on a wide range of criteria including their sustainable design, connectivity to their communities, land use, site ecology, bioclimatic design, light and air, water cycle, energy flows, materials of construction and the anticipated life of the building.
Many of the entries featured innovative solutions for the building's heating, ventilation and water requirements.
The EpiCenter, headquarters for the nonprofit organization Artists for Humanity, for example, features passive solar heating, a highly-efficient heat-recovery system and a natural ventilation system of fans and operable windows that provides a temperate work climate setting without air-conditioning. The EpiCenter is the first building in the city of Boston to be Platinum LEED-certified.
The visitor complex of the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii is another example of innovative HVAC design. The building was designed to capture heat and create air movement using the building form and the principles of thermodynamics. The center is designed as a thermal chimney, moving outside air ventilation at 10 – 15 air changes per hour, using the building itself as the mechanical system. The copper roof acts as an "engine" that triggers a thermo-syphon, radiating heat from the sun into a ceiling plenum. The heated air rises and is replaced by incoming air cooled to 72 degrees F by passing over 45 degree F seawater pumped from deep below the surface.
The other winners included: the Global Ecology Research Center, Stanford, Calif., the Government Canyon Visitor Center, Helotes, Texas, the Heifer International headquarters, Little Rock, Ark., Sidwell Friends Middle School, Washington, D.C., the Wayne L. Morse U.S. Courthouse, Eugene, Ore., the Whitney Water Purification Facility, New Haven, Conn., the Willingboro Master Plan & Public Library, Willingboro, N.J., and the Z6 House, Santa Monica, Calif.