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BSA Design Awards Resources & FAQ

Eligibility

Q: Who is eligible to submit?

A: Anyone is eligible to submit. Massachusetts AIA firm members receive special pricing. Associate AIA members and other unlicensed design professionals, including interior architects or interior designers, may submit projects that do not require the stamp of a licensed professional.

Q: I work for a Boston-based firm that just completed a project in another city; are we eligible?
A: Projects by New England design professionals may be located anywhere. Projects by others must be located in New England.

Q: My firm has offices nationwide, including Boston. We just completed a project in another city. Are we eligible?
A: If your Boston office was the lead design team, yes.

Q: When must have eligible projects been built?

A: Projects must have been completed within the past 5 years (between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2021).

Unbuilt Architecture and Design projects must have been initiated within the past 3 years (between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2021).

Dates

Q: When are the submission deadlines?

A: We have extended category deadlines for the 2022 Design Awards cycle. The following deadlines apply:

September 9, 2022 | 11:59 PMCampus and Urban Planning, Healthcare Facilities Design, Interior Architecture and Spatial Design

September 16, 2022 | 11:59 PMK-12 Education Facilities Design, Residential Design, Unbuilt Architecture and Design

September 23, 2022 | 11:59 PMHonor Awards for Design Excellence

Categories

Q: Can one project be submitted to multiple categories?
A: Yes, but you must submit and pay for each category separately. While you may submit projects to multiple categories, we recommend crafting your narrative specifically for the appropriate category.

Q: Can I submit a project that was previously submitted to the BSA Design Awards in the same or different category?

A: Yes – you may resubmit a built project for any category, so long as it didn’t receive a BSA Design Award in that same category. Resubmitted projects must also still be eligible on the timeline.

Keep in mind – criteria and requirements may have changed since a previous submission. We encourage submitters to craft a current narrative and use this opportunity to provide any updated metrics.

Q: Can I submit an Unbuilt Architecture and Design Award project if it received a previous BSA Design Award or an award in another design competition?

A: If your current project submission has a very different conceptualization than the previous award(s), you may submit.

Q: Are all category programs active every year?

A: Some categories are active yearly, while some are not. Each year, separate juries convene to evaluate submissions or nominations for these categories every year:

  • Unbuilt Architecture and Design

  • Honor Awards for Design Excellence

  • Harleston Parker Medal

The BSA, along with advisory members and awards jurors, constantly evaluate and monitor categories for improvements. Visit architects.org/programs/awards for more information on current year submissions.

Q: Is there a Sustainable Design category?

A: No. Sustainable design, including framework measure of Design for Energy, should embedded into the design work for all projects.

Projects in all categories may be eligible receive a Citation Award for Design for Energy, based on jury deliberation.

Submission Process

IMPORTANT: All entries must be anonymous. Your name and firm name should not appear anywhere except where indicated on the entry form.

Q: How do I submit my project?
A:
All entries are made using our online awards platform. You must create an account or hold a current account in order to submit your project. This account and password is different from your BSA website login.

Q: Do I need to create an account and submit my application on the same day?
A: No, once you create an account and begin the application process, you may return to your application to make edits. You must submit your completed project submission and payment by the deadline.

Q: I applied for the BSA Design Awards last year. Can I use the same login?

A: Yes. If the person who applied for the last program is no longer with the firm, please create a new account.

Q: When do I pay for my application?

A: Entry fees are paid at the time of your submission. Please allow time before the deadline for payment processing.

Q: Can I review a sample submission form before creating an account?

A: Yes – you may view/download a sample submission form here (Unbuilt here). We encourage you to review the requirements prior to the online submission process to ensure you have all the proper credentials.

Q: I have not signed the AIA 2030 Commitment form. Is signing this required to be eligible?

A: No, you may still submit to the Design Awards. Joining the 2030 Commitment benefits your clients, your firm, and the planet.

Submission Information

Q: What type of information should be included in the project summary narrative?

A: We encourage precision and focus on the big picture impact of your project. The narrative should include program requirements, sustainability goals, and design solutions. This includes achieving at least one measure of the AIA Framework for Design Excellence, such as:

- How were specific social equity issues addressed?

- How can the design support the ecological health of its place over time?

- How do project materials and products reduce embodied carbon and environmental impacts?

- How does the project provide more with less?

- What design strategies promote a sense of discovery and delight?

Show the complete story of your project, including showing enough of the project’s surrounding environment. Your project narrative should show the context or situation in which you are operating in and clearly define the challenges your project is solving in an innovative way. Use graphics and pictures to show how your project exists in physical space.

Q: What is the difference between the project summary narrative, statement of design excellence, and client impact statement?

A:Your project summary narrative shows the "big picture", and will be included in your portfolio for jury review.

The statement of design excellence (formally “at-a-glance”) provides a marketing overview of your approach to sustainability through design. Think of this as how you explain the project to who is unfamiliar with architecture.

The client impact statement connects your values with your clients’ goals and provides a glimpse of the engagement and access of users, as well as community impact considerations.

Q: Can I include the name of the client in my submission?
A: Yes, unless you are your own client. In this case, please remove your name from all imagery.

Q: What should be included in my Built portfolio?

A: Your portfolio should include 20 pages maximum, and include:

  • Project summary narrative (250 words or fewer)

  • Project images with captions and credits

  • Annotated site and building plans

  • Your name and/or your firm name should not appear anywhere in the portfolio, images, or project narrative.

Q: What should be included in my Unbuilt Architecture and Design Award portfolio?

A: The Unbuilt Architecture and Design submission requirements include:

  • Project summary narrative (250 words or fewer)

  • Digital project PDF portfolio uploaded to digital submission platform

  • 2 pages maximum

  • Your name and/or your firm name should not appear anywhere in the portfolio, images, or project narrative.

Q: What are the image size requirements?

A: Individual image files should be at minimum 2000 pixels wide and 300 dpi. Submit images as .jpg, .tif, or .png files.

Q: You only allow 20 individual images. Can we put more than one image per file?
A: Yes, you may create composite images as long as you include individual image files that are at least 8″ x 10″ at 300dpi for each of the images in the composite. You may have no more than two composite images in your submission.

Q: We would like to use captions with our images. Is this allowed?
A: Yes, you may use captions at your discretion as long as they are not placed directly over the images. Captions (and any photo credits in the portfolio submission) must not include your firm or client name, even if you or your client are the photographer.

Q: Should marketing images be oriented vertically or horizontally?
A: This is up to you as long as images are at least 8″x10″ at 300 dpi, the orientation is up to you. However, for publication purposes it is helpful if you include a mix of both vertical and horizontal images.

Q: Can I view examples of past winning submissions?

A: Yes. Visit the Design Awards Submission Library for a growing library of past winning Design Award submissions.

AIA Framework for Design Excellence

In 2019, the AIA adopted the Framework for Design Excellence as a set of guidelines and requirements to assess project performance. The Framework sets standards for buildings that demonstrate progress toward a zero-carbon, equitable, resilient and healthy built environment during project evaluation. The BSA introduced a partial requirement in 2021, and we encourage our community to embody these goals in all projects.

The Framework and performance metrics serve as a standing reminder of the importance of incorporating high performance strategies into all design projects in order to achieve our 2050 goals. This requires active engagement with your client throughout the design process.

Q: Do I need to address all ten measures in my project narrative?

A: No. Your project narrative should highlight how your project achieves at least one of these measures. Your project summary narrative should focus on the impact & process effects: outlining the program and design objectives, how the project addressed these objectives, and detailing any 2050 carbon neutral goals. Metrics should be added to support your narrative.

Q: How much influence do metrics play with projects evaluation?

A: While projects submitted do not need to address all the measures, any conclusive metrics should support your project narrative. Metrics are important for awards submission, but more importantly, for you and your clients' success.

Q: My team and client need guidance on the Framework and metrics. Can the BSA assist?

A: The BSA will be offering Design Awards programs throughout the submission period. Please stay tuned to architects.org for announcements.

Q: I have a small firm/team and do not have the means of tracking required metrics.

A: The performance metrics included in award applications will serve as a standing reminder of the importance of incorporating high performance strategies into all design projects in order to achieve our 2050 goals. This requires active engagement with your client throughout the design process.

If you do not have data to share, mark the fields “Not Available” as needed. Do not leave the fields blank.

Q: I am submitting a project in the Unbuilt category. Do I still need to provide metrics?
A: Unbuilt Architecture and Design Award submissions will utilize a separate submission form. While metrics are not required, we encourage submissions to address Framework measures in their design and narrative.

Jury Process

Q: What will the jurors review for built projects?

A: Project narrative( 250 words or fewer) addressing at least one of the ten AIA Framework for Design Excellence principles

  • Statement of Design Excellence (100 words or fewer) describing the project's approach to sustainability through design.
  • Client Impact Statement (100 words or fewer) connecting your values with your clients’ goals

  • Digital project PDF portfolio (20 pages or fewer) uploaded to digital submission platform
    • Should include:
      • Project narrative

      • Project images with captions and credits

      • Annotated site and building plans

Q: What won’t the jurors review for built projects?

A: Entrant information—firm demographics, disadvantaged business enterprise certification, and declaration of AIA 2030 Commitment

  • Up to 20 images—photographs and annotated site and building plans
    • Minimum 2000 pixels wide and 300 dpi

    • Must include photographer credit in file name

    • Photographs should not include text

    • Submit as .jpg, .tif, or .png files uploaded to digital submission platform

  • Credit list that must include names and locations for associated architecture firms, the contractor or construction manager, photographers, and all other consultants
    • Submit as text input in digital submission platform fields

  • Credit list that indicates all associated architecture firms, contractors and construction managers, photographers, and all other consultants that are certified Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) and Women’s Business Enterprises (WBEs)

  • Affirmation of Intern Declaration Policy

  • Affirmation of AIA Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct

  • Consent to the Boston Society of Architects/AIA statement on equity, diversity, and inclusion

  • Entry fee

Q: What is the jury evaluation criteria?

A: Each entry will be judged for the success with which the project has met the category's specific requirements. Entries will be evaluated individually and not in competition with others.

There will be no site visits, so it is imperative that the information provided clearly and accurately describe the project.

Jury considerations include design quality, functional utility, economy, environmental harmony, sustainability, accessibility, aesthetic delight, creativity, craftsmanship, and innovation.

Q: Will jurors be announced prior to the Design Awards deadlines?

A: The BSA will update category web pages with juror names as they are confirmed.

Recognition

Q: Will entrants be notified directly if they receive an award?
A: Yes, all awardees are notified after jury deliberations in the fall. The levels of awards will be announced at the Design Awards ceremony in January.

Q: What are the award levels, and criteria?

A: Projects may be recognized in three levels: Honor (Representing the highest level of achievement of Design Excellence), Merit (representing exceptional work), and Citation (representing a notable achievement). A Citation may be awarded based on outstanding execution with a Framework measure, such as “Citation | Design for Energy” (or a Social Solution/Social Impact citation for an Unbuilt category).

How many awards are given for each categories is up the juries' discretion.

Q: How are the honorees recognized?
A: Honored entries are celebrated at the ceremony, are featured on the Design Awards website, the main BSA website, and in BSA social media.

Q: Is there any formal recognition for submissions that are not awarded?
A: No. If eligible, firms may resubmit their projects for awards in the future.