Four Steel Projects Win AIA Award for Design Excellence and Environmental Performance

Image credit: Built Work Photography, LLC

Structural steel is making its mark on sustainable design, catching the attention of industry professionals who recently presented some of 2023’s biggest architecture awards.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) recognized four (and a half!) steel projects among its 27th annual COTE Top Ten Award winners, a lineup of 10 projects that integrate design excellence with environmental performance.

Winning steel structures included the Harvard University Science & Engineering Building, the Nueva School Science and Environmental Center, RIDC Mill 19, and Seattle’s Watershed. One winning project, the Sacramento Zero Net Office Building, employs a hybrid system of steel framing and cross-laminated timber.

RIDC Mill 19 in Pittsburgh, designed by MSR Design, reimagines the former Pittsburgh Jones & Laughlin Steel Company mill in the context of its new role as a research base for multiple advanced manufacturing partners--while retaining the structure’s original steel skeleton! The new research center boasts the U.S.’s largest array of rooftop solar panels in addition to a rainwater recycling system.

The Harvard University Science & Engineering Building in Cambridge, Mass., designed by Behnisch Architekten, makes use of the existing foundation of a project whose construction was halted in 2008. The 497,000-sq.-ft steel-and-glass structure houses the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, with classrooms, research labs, and amenity spaces inside and a green courtyard outside.

The Nueva School Science and Environmental Center in Hillsborough, Calif., designed by Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, provides an integrated education hub that focuses not only on the classroom but on its surroundings, as well. Flexible learning environments include outdoor spaces that extend the experience into the surrounding community while modeling healthy, low-carbon living.

Seattle’s sustainability-minded Watershed building, designed by Weber Thompson, also won a 2021 AISC IDEAS2 Award. The 61,000-sq.-ft office building uses castellated steel beams to increase natural light in the interior space and contribute to the design’s flexibility--while cutting 20% to 30% off the weight of the beams, which allowed the team to use smaller lateral system elements. The building’s impact goes beyond its walls, as its downward-sloped filtration system can treat up to 400,000 gallons of stormwater from the adjacent highway each year, protecting the water quality in nearby Lake Union and the salmon migration route that runs through it.