Debunking Design Award Misconceptions

2017 AIASD Design Awards

AIA San Diego started the Design Awards program in 1960.  We encourage you to submit your quality projects to help us continue to promote the power and scope of architecture, and how we shape the built environment and enrich the human spirit.  This year we have 9 categories including Architecture, Interior Architecture, Urban Design, Unbuilt Design, Metro Tijuana Architecture, Young Architect of the Year, Patron of the Year, Legacy Award and Student Design Award.  We always want to set the bar high for the projects that receive design awards, but that should not dissuade anyone from submitting.  We want to correct some misconceptions about the design awards based on data from the last two years:

Misconception:  The percentage of awards is very low and it is difficult to receive acknowledgment.
Misconception:  My projects cannot compete in some of the award categories.

During the past two years, an average of 17% of the submitted projects have received awards.  Projects have consistently received awards in every category.  Unbuilt awards have been low because the juries have requested more information on the design process, a stronger emphasis on diagrams, sketches and conceptual framework which are more compelling that just renderings.

2015 & 2016 Submissions Total Projects  Total Awards  Percent Winning
Project Categories
Architecture 75 14 19%
Interior Architecture 26 3 12%
Urban Design 8 3 38%
Unbuilt 19 1 5%
COTE 22 3 14%
Divine Details 37 5 14%
SDG&E Energy 20 6 30%
   Total 207 35 17%

  Awards are not offered in my project type.
Misconception:  There is too much competition in my project type.

Projects have been consistently awarded in every major project type except Religious, but we only received two religious submissions.  Award winners have included small house renovations and mega corporate office complexes.  Unusual projects such as temporary exhibits, donor graphics, gyms, utility plants, historic boardwalks and biomedical facilities have also received awards.

2015 & 2016 Submissions Total Projects  Total Awards  Percent Winning
Project Types
Commercial / Office 47 5 11%
Civic / Government 31 7 23%
K-12 19 2 11%
Higher Education 44 8 18%
Industrial / Parking 6 1 17%
Medical 3 0 0% (40% if include high ed medical)
Multi-Family, Mixed Use 18 5 28%
Retail / Hospitality 10 1 10%
Single Family 19 3 16%
Urban Design 8 3 38%
Religious 2 0 0%
   Total 207 35 17%

  I am a small firm and I cannot compete with the large firms.

Small firms have received more design awards than medium or large firms.

2015 & 2016 Firms Total Projects  Total Awards  Percent Winning
Projects by Firm Size
Small (1-9) 63 15 24%
Medium (10-29) 65 6 9%
Large (30+) 79 14 18%
   Total 207 35 17%

We encourage you to submit for the design awards program.  If you have any questions, you can contact any of the committee members listed below:

Design Awards Committee

Steven Shinn, AIA
Amanda Behnke, AIA
Alahe Aldo, AIA
Jamie Bohannan, Assoc. AIA
Buu Huynh, Communications Director, 619.232.0109