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The Top 10 Green Building Projects Of 2013

The American Institute of Architecture’s annual list of the most sustainable new structures around the country include a brewery, a school, and all the renewable energy and water recycling your heart desires.

Every year, the American Institute of Architects picks its top 10 green projects. The rankings, which have been around for 16 years, are always a mixed bag–everything from libraries to cohousing to a dog adoption park. This year’s list is no different.

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One of our favorites projects, The Merritt Crossing Senior Apartments, was built by Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects–the same firm behind the first housing community for autistic adults, which we wrote about earlier this year. The Oakland, California, apartments, built on an abandoned brownfield site near a freeway, are planned with sustainability in mind: rooftop solar panels offset 38% of power use in common areas, a screen wall can hold vegetation from planters on the building’s balconies, and tall windows let in plenty of daylight and scenic views.


The building is near public transit, so the community has just one parking space for every four apartments (there are 70 apartments in total). And thanks to the use of parking lifts, two cars can occupy one space. Best of all, the apartments are intended solely for senior residents who have incomes between 30% and 50% of the local median, and half the apartments are for residents at risk of homelessness, have a mental illness, or are afflicted with HIV/AIDS.

Like the Merritt Crossing apartments, the Clock Shadow Building in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was built on a former brownfield site. The similarities mostly end there. Built by Continuum Architects + Planners, the 30,370 square foot building is mixed-use–non-profit healthcare organizations share the space with an ice cream store and an artisan cheesemaker. The building has a rooftop community garden and open space, serious insulation to accommodate Milwaukee’s temperature swings, 10 foot by 10 foot windows to maximize daylighting, a rainwater harvesting system, and carbon neutral energy usage.

It’s hard not to love the Marin Country Day School’s new Learning Resource Center and Courtyard. The project, built by EHDD, was designed in tandem with students, who also kept track of the construction process and its results. The 33,740-square-foot project features classrooms, art studios, student service offices, a library and technology center, a courtyard, a playground, and a creek restoration.


Approximately 95% of all spaces in the new project are naturally ventilated and daylit, while covered walkways both provide shade and allow access to the sunlight. The indoor spaces have waterless urinals and dual flush toilets, while the outdoor landscape features drought-tolerant plants.

Half of all the winners this year are in California, but based on the geographic diversity of winners in past years, we’ll chalk it up to a fluke (though the most populous state is represented nearly every year). For all the 2013 winners, check out our slide show above.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more

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