I recently came across a blog post from Kaid Benfield, Director, Smart Growth Program, Washington D.C., called “I wish AIA didn’t define ‘green’ so narrowly”. The post was in response to the recent AIA awards for their top 10 green projects of 2010. His objection is primarily that these projects—and the AIA’s view of green architecture in general—don’t significantly enough take into account the site and surrounding neighborhood in its design. The crux of his argument is such:

In other words, my view is that sustainable architecture is only worthy of the name if it is in the right places, and includes design that respects and enhances the community around it, including neighborhood walkability. I would expect the most award-worthy green architecture also to include great public spaces, be placed on well-connected and pedestrian-friendly streets, include superior public transportation connections, attain densities that support efficient use of land, and contain mixed uses in multi-building projects. The best LEED-ND projects—such as Vancouver Olympic Village or Station Park Green, for example—do all of this, and they are designed by architects, as are the buildings within them.

I suppose AIA might argue that the jury was only interested in evaluating what the architects influenced, and the surrounding contexts were beyond their control. But architects influence neighborhood-scaled projects as much as institutional ones, and some rise greatly to the challenges of fitting into an urban setting in a way that facilitates public life and community sustainability, not just building sustainability, while respecting the neighborhood. Given that these are the projects that perform the best environmentally, they deserve to be highlighted every bit as much as the ones that were selected, and I can make a strong case that they are even more worthy.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree with Benfield’s criticism of the AIA’s definition of green?