AIA Colorado Design Awards | The Unfound Door

AIA Colorado Design Awards: Submission Instructions

*Submission Instructions Subject to Change. Please check back March 20, 2024, when the Call for Awards opens to ensure that your submission is in accordance with the latest instructions.


The AIA Colorado Annual Design Awards honor the outstanding work of AIA Colorado members and their firms, reinforce the value of great architecture, and highlight member contributions to positive change.

Awards Recognition

Eligible projects must be designed by an AIA Colorado member architect/firm within the last five years, but can be any project type, any size and do not have to be located within Colorado.

Award Levels

The jury may recognize eligible projects in one of the following levels.

Award of Excellence: This is the highest possible honor, which recognizes projects that represent excellence of architectural design on all levels and exemplify the highest standards to which AIA members aspire. Unanimous approval by the jurors is required.

Award of Merit: Granted to projects which display a high standard of architectural quality and design, as deemed unanimously or by a consensus of jury members.

Honorable Mention: Honors notable achievements in one or more aspects of the project, as deemed unanimously or by a consensus of jury members.

In addition, eligible projects may be recognized for their integration of sustainable design excellence with environmental performance.

Entry Fees and Deadlines

The submission fee is $250 per entry.

Entrants that are already submitting for a category (listed below) can also submit their project for consideration in the sustainability category, at no extra cost, by completing the Sustainability Common App. To be considered for the sustainability category you must already be submitting a project for another category and have paid your submission fee. More information below, under “Categories.”

Refunds will not be issued for entries that are disqualified, withdrawn, incomplete, or late. The submission deadline will be strictly observed; no exceptions will be made.

Online Submission Process Opens: Friday, March 15, 2024

Submission Deadline: May 17, 2024


For projects to be considered, the following requirements must be met:

  1. The project must have been completed within the last five calendar years. This means that the submitted project must have been completed on, or after, Jan. 1, 2019.
  2. The work must be submitted by either the design architect or the architect-of-record, residing in Colorado, who is an AIA Colorado member or architect, in good standing.
    1. Submissions must include the name of individual who served as either the design architect or the architect-of-record for the project being submitted.
    2. If a project had both a design architect and an architect-of-record, submissions must include the names of both.
    3. Projects are only eligible to receive an award if the work was done by an AIAColorado member whose firm is within Colorado. (The member may be either the design architect or the architect-of-record.)
    4. Eligible projects must be designed by an AIA Colorado member/architect, but the project can be any size/type and located anywhere in the world.
    5. Non-licensed AIA Colorado members are eligible to submit for the Unbuilt, Architectural Detail and Research and Development project types. All other award categories must be designed by a licensed architect.
  3. Projects that have been previously submitted but did not receive an AIA Colorado award in prior years, and still meet the five-year eligibility requirement, may be resubmitted.
  4. There is no limit to the number of submissions per eligible architect member or firm. You may enter as many projects as you wish that meet the eligibility criteria.

Judging and Evaluation Criteria

The AIA Colorado Design Awards celebrate design excellence regardless of budget, size, style, or type, and recognizes the range of outstanding work by AIA Colorado architects and their positive impacts to our communities.

The jury evaluates entries based on how successfully projects have met their individual requirements while clearly conveying the project’s vision. Entries are judged individually—not in competition with each other.

Jurors will consider each submittal holistically through the lens of the Framework for Design Excellence, including but not limited to the following:

Project Classification

Classifications are used solely to facilitate the submission and judging processes. The jury is not required to recognize awards within each project category; there is no maximum or required minimum number of projects recognized within any category. Entrants must select from one of the following categories (except for the sustainability category) that best represents their submission. A project may be entered for sustainability recognition as well by submitting additional information.

New Research & Development Award Category

Announcing a new Design award! The R&D award seeks to celebrate the work that we do that doesn’t fall into traditional categories of built (or even unbuilt) projects. It recognizes the investigations that forward the art and science of Architecture.

“So what sort of things would fit into this category?” A comparative study of embodied carbon in your project. Pioneering a new product or material assembly. Creating original building forms or performance using cutting edge modeling technology. Studying or improving fire resistance in envelop design. Or creating a new building code to reflect those ignition resistant design strategies. More examples can include fabrication, building components or systems, sustainable strategies, construction details, design process, social/community impact, and research-focused faculty or student work.

The IRS uses a 4-part test to determine if an Architect’s activity qualifies for the R&D tax credit and this category will use the same general filter:

  1. Permitted Purpose
    • The activity must relate to a new and improved business component’s function, performance, reliability, or quality. This means your project aims to address a technological challenge, not simply fulfill routine business needs.
  2. Technological in Nature
    • The activity performed must fundamentally rely on principles of physical or biological science, engineering, or computer science.
  3. Process of Experimentation 
    • Your project should involve a systematic experimentation process. This means actively seeking solutions through trial and error, modeling, simulation, testing different alternatives, and changing your approach based on the results.
  4. Elimination of Uncertainty 
    • The activity must discover information to eliminate uncertainty concerning the capability, method or design for developing or improving a product, design or process.

This Award is open to any member including those who are non-licensed professionals in firms, in academic settings, or working in group collaborations.

Submission Application Details

All submissions are to be completed online through the AIA Colorado Design Awards portal.

Projects previously submitted between 2019 and 2023 that did not receive statewide recognition may resubmit for consideration for an AIA Colorado 2024 Design Award.

Submissions that do not follow instructions and/or submission requirements may be disqualified and will not receive any refund of entry fees.

Click here to access the submission portal. An account must be created prior to submitting projects. A draft of the submission can be saved during the process. Payment is required at the end of the application before the project is submitted or another entry started.

See below the information you will be asked to submit via the online application.

1 – Project Title

2 – Submission Details

3 – Eligibility Verification

4 – Nominating Firm Information

5 – Project Details

The following information will not be seen by the jury but may be used for publication purposes after the jury deliberation.

*When one architect is not the sole author, all other participants contributing substantially to the design of the project must be given credit as part of the submission, regardless of professional discipline. AIA Colorado reserves the right to recognize additional project contributors that may not have been listed in celebration and promotion of the Design Awards.

6 – Project Photos for AIA Colorado Communications and Marketing

6 high-resolution photos, with proper credit, to be used on AIA Colorado’s website and/or in other AIA Colorado communications and marketing. Label the filename of each image with the project name and number your photos 1 through 6. Photo number 1 will be used as a thumbnail on the AIA Colorado website and marketing materials.

7 – Project Submittal for Jury Review* (PDF – 17 pages maximum, full-bleed permitted,
11×17″ aspect ratio, “landscape orientation”)

*Firm and personnel names are not to be visible on any of the pages or file names. Failure to follo50 these instructions will result in disqualification. If selected to receive an award, this PDF may be shared publicly.

  1. Project Data (Page 1 of PDF submittal)
    This information must be presented in the first page of your digital submittal binder and must provide the following details in the order listed below:
    Total word count = Maximum 500 in bullet or paragraph form. Font size minimum 10 point.
    1. Name of project
    2. Type of project, if applicable
    3. Project Size, if applicable
    4. Cost per Square Foot and overall construction cost (if allowed to be shared publicly), if applicable
    5. Program summary (250 words or less)
    6. Project completion date
    7. Project location
  2. Project Narrative: (Page 2 of PDF submittal) A one-page written description of the project to include project synopsis of the design achievements. Verifiable client testimonies encouraged. Total word count = Maximum 500 in bullet or paragraph form. Font size minimum 10 point.
    • For a Research and Development submission, describe the intention of the Research and Development and describe your conclusions at the end of the investigation.
  3. Framework for Design Excellence Narrative: (Page 3 of PDF submittal) Describe how the project addresses at least 3 of the 10 measures of the COTE Framework for Design Excellence. Maximum word count is up to 250 words per measure, 750 words total. Entries also submitted for the sustainability category may use any three of the narrative responses within the Design Excellence Common App. Every submission is required to complete this section of the submittal, whether it is being submitted for the sustainability category or not. All projects should be environmentally responsible – addressing the way our projects incorporate the Framework for Design Excellence will help prepare submitters interested in submitting for national AIA awards.
    • For a Research and Development submission, describe how your project demonstrates excellence in the R&D category and responds to the IRS’ 4 part R&D qualifications. Or, if your R&D project includes sustainability criteria, please describe using the COTE Framework for Design Excellence.
  4. Supporting Images including photographs, drawings, diagrams, floor plans: (Pages 4 – 17 maximum of PDF submittal) These pages are meant to graphically represent the project to the jury. Pages may include photographs, diagrams, plans, sections, elevations, spreadsheets or other tools of investigation and analysis, and any other illustrative drawings that tell the story of the project. Renovations and additions should consider graphics and other images to distinguish between the initial conditions and the final product; and highlight re-use or adaptation.

8 – Online Verification Forms 

The entrant will be required to agree to the following items:

  1. Project Data Verification: By completing this online submission and the accompanying digital PDF project submittal to the jury, the submitter certifies that all information that they provided is complete and accurate. Any errors or omissions are the responsibility of the entrant. The entrant also agrees to hold harmless AIA Colorado for any and all damage arising out of its use of information contained in this submittal.
  2. Attribution: Entrants must be AIA members of the AIA Colorado chapter residing in Colorado and in good standing as licensed architects, who have served as either the Design Architect or the Architect-of-Record for the project submitted. Furthermore, all other participants contributing substantially to the design of the project must be given credit as part of the submission, regardless of professional discipline. Should an entrant receive an award for a project that is later determined to have been substantially completed by a design professional not belonging to AIA Colorado, or proper credit to additional design firms has not been given, that award is subject to repeal.
  3. Declaration Policy: The entrant and/or submitting firm does not utilize, employ, or otherwise engage labor that is unpaid, including working students. The candidate acknowledges this wording shall cover all persons working under their employ, regardless of position or title. Exceptions recognized by Federal law (such as legally defined internships or educational cooperative programs) are exempt from this Policy. This entrant further acknowledges that they have not utilized any unpaid labor as defined above for a minimum of five (5) years prior to the application deadline.
  4. EDI Declaration: The entrant and/or submitting firm is expected to be familiar with and abide by the AIA Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. By agreeing to this, you confirm that you have read the document and will uphold the AIA diversity and inclusion statement. Furthermore, AIA Colorado encourages all members to read the Guides for Equitable Practice and establish policies that promote equity, diversity, and inclusion.
  5. Owner Release: Each entrant must verify that permission has been obtained from the Owner/ Client. Additionally, the entrant grants permission to AIA Colorado to use the submitted material for editorial and professional education purposes through various channels including in scheduled awards presentations, printed materials, website listings and audiovisual presentations.
  6. Photographer and Photograph Release: The entrant has obtained permission from the photographer to include submitted images in the application. The entrant understands that the submission photos may be used, with proper credit, on AIA Colorado’s website and/or in other AIA Colorado communications and marketing.

PLEASE NOTE: Awards and Honors given to recipients on behalf of AIA Colorado are based upon the nominations and supporting material provided by the nominee or their professional peers.

AIA Colorado members are dedicated to high ethical and professional standards. Accordingly, recipients are expected to conduct themselves in an exemplary manner befitting their recognition as the best among us. AIA Colorado reserves the absolute right to elevate or disqualify any submission and may at any time rescind an award previously bestowed.

Questions? Contact Jon Bell, AIA Colorado Communications & Creative Director.

© AIA Colorado 2024
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