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2021 AIA Potomac Valley Excellence in Design Awards



We are following the pandemic situation and restrictions closely, and will make decisions later in the year regarding AIAPV's Excellence in Design Awards event. At this time, we are planning for a live event on October 21—Celebrate Design 2021—in collaboration with Montgomery County Planning. Please note that all dates and details are subject to change (with the exception of the July 19 deadline for entries), and will depend on whether or not we are able to hold a live awards ceremony this year. We’ll communicate that information by updating our chapter website and this page as details are finalized.

IMPORTANT: Please read the newly revised Call for Entries information below before entering a project! 


The AIA Potomac Valley Excellence in Design Awards program is designed to encourage and recognize distinguished architectural achievement; to honor the architectural team, their clients and consultants who work together to improve the built environment; to demonstrate the breadth of services architects provide; and to celebrate and raise public consciousness of the architect’s role in shaping the quality of life through design excellence.


Please carefully read through the eligibility requirements below to ensure you meet ALL criteria before submitting an entry because NO refunds will be given due to errors in submission.

Participation is open to built and unbuilt projects completed after January 1, 2016 that have not been previously awarded by AIA Potomac Valley [exception: projects that were previously awarded in an unbuilt category may be resubmitted in a built category]. Unbuilt submissions may not be under construction at the time of submission. There is no limit to the number of projects that may be entered by a firm and all materials included in submissions must be cleared for public reproduction. All eligible entrants must be AIA members in good standing as of June 1, 2021. Entries must be submitted by the Firm of Record or the Architect of Record.

  • Primary members of AIA Potomac Valley (architects or associates) who are a principal member of the design team, or a Principal of the Firm responsible for the project, may submit projects designed or built anywhere in the world.
  • Primary members of other AIA chapters (architects and associates) who are a principal member of the design team responsible for the project, or a Principal of the Firm that is responsible for the project, may submit projects that are located within the geographic boundaries of the Potomac Valley chapter (Allegany, Charles, Frederick, Garrett, Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Washington counties in Maryland).

AIA Potomac Valley Schedule

  • Monday, July 19  Submission Forms, Material Uploads and Entry Fees are due by 11:59pm EDT. Entry fee payments must made by credit card in the awards submission portal when the project is ready for final submission. NO LATE ENTRIES WILL BE ACCEPTED, AND NO REFUNDS WILL BE ISSUED.
  • August 2021  Online Individual Juror Review
    Kim Yao, AIA [Jury Chair] Principal, Architecture Research Office (ARO) – New York, NY
  • August 2021  Live / Virtual Collective Jury Review
  • Thursday, October 21  Design Awards Ceremony at Celebrate Design 2021

The Design Awards ceremony at Celebrate Design 2021 will be held as a live event at Montgomery County Planning’s new Wheaton Headquarters.

New in 2021

NEW Sustainability Award

In 2020, the Maryland AIA components introduced the Framework for Design Excellence to our awards programs. This year, AIAPV is introducing the PV Award for the project that best achieves the principles of the Framework for Design Excellence to the extent they are applicable to the project. Entrants must complete the optional section and check the box on the submission form to be considered for this award.

Another initiative introduced in 2020 was a new virtual awards gallery. This collaboration by the Maryland AIA components offers additional marketing and exposure for outstanding projects recognized by each component’s jury team. 


Kim Yao, AIA [Chair]
Principal, Architecture Research Office (ARO)
New York, NY
2020 AIA Architecture Firm Award Recipient

Kimberly Dowdell, AIA
Principal, HOK
Chicago, IL
2020 AIA Young Architects Award Recipient

Takashi Yanai, FAIA
Partner, Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects (EYRC)
Los Angeles, CA
2015 AIA Architecture Firm Award Recipient

Entry Fee

  • AIAPV Members: $175 per project entry
  • Other AIA Members: $275 per project entry
  • Small Projects only: 
    • AIAPV Members: $80 per project entry
    • Other AIA Members: $125 per project entry
  • By submitting a project, the submitting architect asserts that he or she has provided a complete list of participants who contributed substantially to the design of the project (regardless of discipline) and absolves AIAPV of any responsibility for omissions.
  • Entry fees are non-refundable, but upon request, may be deferred to the following year's awards program.

Submission Categories

Projects of all types and scales, including new construction, additions, renovations, and historic preservation projects are encouraged in each of the following categories:

  • Institutional Architecture
  • Commercial Architecture
  • Multi-Family Architecture
  • Residential Architecture
  • Interior Architecture
  • Urban Design & Master Planning
  • Unbuilt Architecture
  • Small Projects (in any of the above categories) Entry shall be any of the following:
    • less than 1,000 sf
    • cost less than $300,000
    • an object


Design Awards

  • Gold (Best in Show) Best project selected from the awarded projects, for the following two categories:
    • One Residential
    • One Non-Residential 
  • PV Award  Recognizes the best project exemplifying elements of the AIA’s Framework for Design Excellence. Entrants must complete the optional section and check the box on the submission form to be considered for this award.
  • Honor  Acknowledges projects with overall distinctive character and outstanding quality.
  • Merit  Recognizes projects that demonstrate a level of design that exemplifies superior achievements.
  • Special Recognition  Awarded at the discretion of the jury to projects that bear an exceptional aspect, detail, specific design feature, or other design recognition that the jury feels represents excellence which deserves specific honor. Entries may be eligible for special recognition for their application of ethical and responsible design principles.


The AIAPV Awards Committee will select a Jury Chair. Following AIAPV guidelines for diversity, the Jury Chair selects a jury team of distinguished architects from outside of the Potomac Valley Chapter. The jury shall consider projects on their own merits regardless of size, scope, or cost, and shall evaluate entries based on how successfully projects meet their individual requirements. At the jury’s discretion, award recognition in any category may be given to as many or as few projects as are deemed worthy by the jury. The jury’s decisions are final and not subject to review.

Prior to the awards ceremony, all entrants will be notified by email as to whether or not they have won an award. However, the level of award will not be disclosed until the awards ceremony. We ask that all publicity about winning projects be held until after the awards ceremony.

All entries will be judged and awards considered using the following criteria, with additional consideration given to responses to the Framework for Design Excellence measures.

1.  DESIGN EXCELLENCE: Does the design elevate the human experience while addressing the project’s practical needs?
2.  SUSTAINABLE DESIGN / RESILIENCY: Does the design take a progressive approach to advancing the missions of sustainability and/or resiliency?
3.  COMMUNITY IMPACT: Does the design provide significant improvement to its social or physical setting?

Winning Entries & Publicity

Award winners will be announced and award certificates presented to the Architect, Owner/Developer and General Contractor or Construction Manager of award-winning projects during the awards ceremony expected to be held in October. Additional award certificates may be provided when requested by email to pam@aiapv.org no later than 2 weeks prior to the awards eventWinners are asked to refrain from publicizing their award until after the awards ceremony. Architect winners are requested to notify their Client, General Contractor / Construction Manager and Consultants of the project's award, and are encouraged to invite them to the awards celebration.

After being notified of the jury’s decision, all winners shall provide for each winning project a team photo and a 75-word description to be used in the awards ceremony. They will also have the option to produce one display board for each winning project (PDF format; physical format tentative/TBD). If a live event is held, physical boards are to be delivered to AIAPV headquarters at LEAFHouse and will be for display at the live awards event. Alternatively, you may arrive early to the event with your board in time for its display during the reception. Board requirements and template formats will be provided to each winner. Entrants are encouraged to take their board at the conclusion of the awards event. 

AIA Potomac Valley will promote the winning projects on the AIAPV website, Maryland AIA Chapters Design Awards Gallery and Maryland Awards Gallery websites, and in any Maryland AIA Chapter publications. A Press Release will be sent to the local media.


Each entry shall be accompanied by an entry fee to cover jury and program expenses with all documents and images submitted as outlined in the specific requirements below. AIA Potomac Valley and/or the Jury reserves the right to disqualify any entry not submitted in the manner specified.

Some things to consider in light of jury feedback:

  • Jury suggests eliminating renderings and elevations and to focus on the built work.
  • The award is for the building, not the representation of the building. Only submit diagrams if it supports or helps explain the project.
  • Distill your entry to clearly tell the story of the project using its best imagery and more inclusion of images that place the completed building within its context. Understanding the context of the project is critical when judging built work. Be careful when cropping photos so that context is not cut out.
  • Tell your project's story—how your design solved issues, how it serves our communities and builds a better world. Less is more – make every word and image count and tell us the most powerful parts of your project's story.
  • Use people in the photos of the project, as they contribute greatly in terms of scale and engagement.

See also:

A complete project submission includes the following and must be finalized within the online submission portal with full payment by Monday, July 21, 11:59 pm EDT:

  1. Completion of the online SUBMISSION FORM
  2. IMAGE FILES (3-8 digital images with caption and image credit for each image)
  3. JURY PDF (10MB, 10 pages max)
  4. PRESENTATION PDF (6MB, 3 pages max)
  5. Payment of Entry Fee


Your design entry must be prepared and formatted as described below for submission through the online submission portal.

If you've previously submitted a project, you have an account and will be able to login with those credentials. If you have not, you will automatically establish an account when you create an entry application for the first time. Please review detailed instructions on the portal home page if you experience any technological issues using the portal.

All submission forms, file uploads and payment of fees will be handled through the online submission portal. You may save your work as you go and return to the site as often as needed, but all submission materials and entry fee payments must be completed and submitted by the submission deadline.

Once an entry is completed for a project, that entire project submission may then be submitted to another Maryland chapter awards program without any re-entry or re-uploading. Simply check the box: "I Want to Submit This Project to Another Chapter Awards Program" on the last page of the submission, 'Entry Uploads,' BEFORE finalizing the initial entry.

Conceal all references to the architecture firm name or design team members on all materials submitted for jury review. Identification of authorship within the Jury PDF will disqualify the submission. Jury PDFs must be in landscape orientation with a page size of 11” x 8 1/2", may not exceed 10MB total (all pages combined), and shall conform to the following requirements:

  • An anonymous JURY PDF presentation file for jury review and evaluation purposes only.
  • A PRESENTATION PDF for public presentation purposes.

JURY PDF (10 MB, 10 pages max) 

Entries shall conform to the following page requirements:

  • The total size of each entry—all pages combined—may not exceed 10MB of data.
  • Each submission may contain a maximum of 10 pages. At your discretion, submit individual images on separate pages, or arrange multiple elements in a layout on a single page. 
  • Each page must be 11” x 8 1/2" in landscape orientation, and developed as a PDF presentation file.
  • Use this naming convention: JPDF_ProjectName.pdf
  • Please remember you must conceal references to the architecture firm or team members in the PDF submitted for jury review. Identification of project authorship within the Jury PDF will disqualify the submission.
First Page: Project Description and Introduction


  • 11" x 8 1/2" landscape orientation (all pages)
  • Combination of text and images, 12 pt. minimum font size, formatted and designed at entrant's discretion.

Project Information:

  • Project Name
  • Project Location (City, State, if applicable)
  • Project Category (a project may be entered in only one category)
  • Project Summary describing the "Site," "Program," and "Solution." As part of this synopsis, discuss key design aspects (intent, concepts, and contextual relationships), technical aspects (structure, materials, mechanical systems, etc. where informative), and the social, environmental or other benefits of the project to the public and its users. This summary is intended for publication.

Subsequent Pages (2–9): Visuals

Include images along with additional succinct annotation. The format and design of the pages are at the entrant's discretion while maintaining 11" x 8 1/2" landscape orientation. Renderings are discouraged for built work—diagrams and images should speak to the design process and completed built work.

  • Please include photographs, drawings, floor plans, elevations, sections, renderings and graphic images as necessary to provide a clear understanding of the extent and quality of the finished project. A site plan is required. Photographs should depict the whole project with views of each exposed exterior façade and each room of the project, as appropriate. Exterior views are optional for Interiors projects. 
  • Address sustainability in your narrative (and/or with diagrams or metrics).
  • Label images with suitable titling and captions. Photographer credit on the images used in the Project/Jury PDF is permitted except those identifying the firm and/or team members.
  • Renovations, restorations, additions and conversions should present “before” and “after” photographs. For projects involving changes to existing structures, documentation of original conditions is highly recommended. Process sketches that communicate the development of the project and/or its construction are encouraged.
  • Indicate the project’s physical context or site character through graphics and/or imagery.
  • Unbuilt projects should include floor plans, elevations, sections, renderings, graphic images, and/or site plans as necessary to provide a clear understanding of the project. If client-commissioned, include photos of the site location.


Provide no more than 8 images in JPG format (10MB max per image) for use in the presentation of entrants, awards and publications. The Jury will not see these files. List captions and photographer or rendering credit for each image. Three of the images are to be of high resolution of the best representation of the project - one thumbnail, one exterior photo and one interior photo. The Thumbnail image can be a repeat of one of the other two, or a different image entirely. The three high res images should be at least 300 dpi and 8'x10” and labeled 1) Project Name_thumbnail, 2) Project Name_high res ext and 3) Project Name_high res int. Subsequent images must be at a maximum of 6” x 9” at 150 dpi for horizontal images, and a maximum of 6” x 7.5” at 150 dpi for vertical images.

PRESENTATION PDF (6MB, 3 pages max)

Select three images that best represent your project. Selected images of all entries will be displayed during the cocktail reception, and images of award-winning entries will be displayed during the awards presentations.

Prepare Presentation PDF in the following format:

  • Three pages maximum—may not exceed 6MB of data.
  • Format pages 11” x 8.5” in landscape orientation and saved as a PDF.
  • On each page add project title, firm name, firm logos or other identifiers as desired.
  • Use this naming convention: PPDF_Firm Name_ProjectName.pdf

Questions? Contact Pam Rich at prich@aiapv.org.

Frequently Asked Questions

►  ​I’m not a member of AIA Potomac Valley, but a member of my project team is. Can I submit at the lower “member rate?” Yes, you can; the AIAPV member should be listed as the eligible entrant.

►  I will be submitting three projects. Should I complete three registration forms? Yes, you will need to complete three separate entry applications.

 Can I include the project name in the Jury PDF? Yes, you may—just make sure you don’t identify the submitting firm or designer. Submissions are to remain anonymous.

 What happens if I exceed the 10MB file limit? You will be asked once to reduce the size of the file and resubmit your project.

 How will I know my submission has been received? Upon submitting your entry, you will receive a confirmation e-mail message containing your submission details.

►  What should I do if I did not receive a confirmation e-mail containing my submission details? First, check your junk mail folder - the most likely problem is that your spam filter sent the e-mail there. If you don't find it in your junk mail folder, please contact the chapter program administrator for assistance.

►  Do I have to start and finish my submission in one session? No. You can start your submission and come back to finish it before the applicable program deadline date by 11:59pm EDT.

►  Can I revise my submission after I've hit the "Save and Finalize" button? Yes, provided your request is made and changes are complete by the entry deadline. You will need to ask the program's administrator to open your submission to allow you to make the change yourself through the portal.

►  Can we submit a few days late? No. In the interest of fairness to all participants, no late entries will be accepted.

►  How will our PDF be viewed? Jurors will view projects on both small (laptops) and large screens. As long as your images are web-ready (150 dpi), there will be no loss of fidelity.