Each entry will be judged on how successful the project is in meeting its individual requirements. Consideration is given to aesthetics, social impact, innovation, context, performance, and stewardship of the natural environment, with particular emphasis on the Framework for Design Excellence. All entries shall include a completed Framework for Design Excellence Project Information Form

Recognizing that every project is different and may not respond to every measure within the Framework, the jury will consider each design holistically and within context.

Designers may submit projects of all types (including residential) for consideration in the Architecture category. In their deliberations, the jury will consider aesthetics, adherence to the client program, proven and projected building performance, and concept development. As with all categories, entrants will submit a project information form, a project description, and up to five pages of illustration, each of which may contain plans, sections, renderings, photographs, and captions, as the entrant deems suitable to describe the outstanding elements of the project.

Design for Context

Awards in this category recognize outstanding architecture that reflects the history, culture, and physical character of its surroundings while also contributing to the function, beauty, and meaning of the larger context. Both contemporary and historical design responses are eligible. Evaluation criteria include:

  • How does the design contribute to the architectural vocabulary of the surrounding physical context through tangible qualities such as scale, form, and materials?
  • How does the design respond to the place’s history and culture?
  • How does the design creatively embody the identity or mission of the place?

Submissions should include a description of the existing context and how it is reflected in the design, as well as images (photographs or drawings; at least two) that reveal the context of the project and the key features of the design response.

Extended Use
The existing built environment represents significant investments in energy, resources, and embodied carbon. Consequently, adapting existing structures generates dramatically lower embodied carbon emissions than new construction. These projects also represent a substantial part of contemporary practice. The work of retrofitting, renovating, adapting, and remodeling existing buildings accounts for almost half of U.S. architecture billings. This award celebrates design interventions upon existing buildings that help achieve carbon reduction through creative reuse and adaptation. They are given in two categories:

Adaptive or Continued Use
Projects submitted in this category should include either a renovation within an existing building or new construction that expands an existing structure or site. The intent of this award is to recognize thoughtful interventions that create synergy between old and new construction, improve functionality, energy-efficiency, meet contemporary standards for comfort and utility, and/or capitalize on the embodied energy of an existing structure.

Historic Preservation
The Historic Preservation category includes restoration and rehabilitation of historically significant buildings, focusing specifically on excellence in strategies, tactics, and technologies that advance the art, craft, and science of preservation. The jury will also take into consideration adherence to state and national criteria for historic preservation.

Interior architecture projects of distinction will evince mastery of composition, functionality, material and color palettes, and well-integrated adherence to the highest levels of accessibility, health and safety, environmental, and occupant-comfort considerations, standards, and regulations. Submissions will highlight accommodation of project goals, including the client’s specific programmatic requirements, in a single page of text supplemented with five pages of illustrations in PDF format.

Residential Design
Aesthetic appeal and functionality are two long-established criteria for home design. More frequently, especially in the last several years, families have also been looking for affordability and resource efficiency. The jury will focus on the issues of:

  • Design that suits the needs of the homeowner or resident, regardless of any particular style, and is easily maintained, filled with adequate natural light and fresh air, energy and water efficient, and is universally accessible.
  • Community building, in that the residence is well-sited with respect to views and amenities such as transit, shopping, recreation, and congregation.

Submissions should include a description of the sustainability and community-building programmatic aspects of the residence, interior and exterior photographs, plans, and/or drawings, and a site plan.

Small Projects
Design excellence can be achieved, no matter the size or scope of a project. These awards celebrate projects with modest budgets that have a substantial impact. (Professional photography is not required) Small Project Awards are given in three categories, offering opportunities for recognition to a wide range of project sizes and budgets.

Category one: Small project construction, object, work of environmental art or architectural design element up to $150,000 in construction cost

Category two: Small project construction up to $500,000 in construction cost

Category three: Small project construction, object, work of environmental art or architectural design under 5,000 square feet (the architect must have had a significant role in the construction, fabrication, and/or installation of the work in addition to being the designer)

All projects must demonstrate design achievement, including how the project fits into its environment and how the project connects to the Framework for Design Excellence.

Unbuilt Architecture 

Unbuilt projects often express ideas, innovations, and imaginative solutions to the needs of clients, communities, and our profession. AIA Virginia’s Unbuilt Architecture Awards celebrate the speculative, theoretical, experimental, academic, and analytical work of the profession.

Commissioned and uncommissioned works are eligible.

Projects in this category are judged on their innovation, solutions to stated design challenges, and overall design excellence.

The Juries

The juries for each of the categories comprise architects, educators, and related professionals working outside the mid-Atlantic region who are well-recognized for their work pertaining to their particular categories.