Skip to Navigation | Skip to Content



Encouraging Design Excellence.
» Back to: » Planning home » Design Excellence

Design Excellence

Celebrate Design

As one of the nation’s wealthiest and most educated areas, Montgomery County deserves to have buildings, public spaces and neighborhoods of the highest quality design. Fostering design excellence is becoming increasingly important as the amount of available land for development in the County is shrinking and building density is increasing. These challenges present a greater need than in the past to create attractive, safe and sustainable places to live, work and play so the County can remain competitive within the region. Design excellence becomes a tool for attracting the best and brightest to our County – residents, businesses and visitors – and ensuring healthy and sustainable communities.

To raise the quality of design throughout the County, the Montgomery County Planning Department is launching a comprehensive Design Excellence (DesignX) initiative focused on the themes of inspiration, collaboration and clarity.  This program includes the following strategies:

  • Build an awareness campaign of those qualities constituting great design.
  • Sharing inspiration and knowledge through this website and Planning Matters blog.
  • Talks by staff and outside experts about Design Excellence and recognized precedents.
  • Curated photo library with realistic, inspirational examples for use in community discussions, master plans, design guidelines and regulatory reviews.
  • Recognizing design excellence in the County through an annual Design Award program.
  • Development oversight, support and recommendations from a new  Director’s Design Advisory Panel.
  • Developer support from staff trained in best practices in architectural design, urban design, landscape design and regulatory review.
  • Coordination with public agencies and municipalities to generate a singular voice and messaging on the importance of design excellence throughout the County.
  • Improving zoning incentives to encourage better design and public benefits.
  • Improving design guidelines through clear, predictable and fair goals and objectives, and precedent images and graphics.
  • Improving communication and clarity through increased use of three-dimensional design and modeling tools and graphics.
  • Gallery on website of successful projects within the region.

News and Events

  • New! View the School Design Options presentation given to the Silver Spring Advisory Committee on October 12.
    • The following PowerPoint presentation is an abridged version of a presentation given to the Cross-agency Work Group on School Design Options headed by Montgomery County Public Schools by Paul Mortensen, Senior Urban Designer for the Montgomery Planning Department. This presentation was given to the Silver Spring Citizen’s Advisory Committee on October 12 at the Silver Spring Civic Building. The presentation features different innovative school design precedents from across the country that fall under the umbrella of Constrained Sites, Additions and Renovations of Existing Schools, Shared Uses and Adaptive Reuse of Existing Commercial Buildings.

Design Excellence Award

The Montgomery County Planning Department seeks to recognize exceptional work in architecture, landscape architecture and urban design that will inspire greater Design Excellence and represent Montgomery County’s high quality of design to the region, state and nation. Each year, the Department will honor one project that exemplifies the highest qualities of Design Excellence and will foster economic, social and environmental sustainability. The winning project should express the essential qualities of outstanding walkable, sustainable places at the scale of the neighborhood, block and building.  It will illustrate how great design contributes to the community in terms of character, identity and economic value. It will be a project deserving of community pride. This award is an opportunity for your project to be seen widely, particularly in business and professional settings where the best qualities of Montgomery County are promoted.  The selection of a winner will be made by an outside jury of architects, landscape architects, planners and urbanists invited by the Planning Department. The winner will be announced on Thursday, October 22, 2015 during an awards celebration at the Silver Spring Civic Center.

This event will be part of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Potomac Chapter annual awards ceremony. One of the highlights of the evening will be a presentation on the business case for design excellence by Christopher Leinberger, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and founding partner of Arcadia Land Company with Robert Davis, the developer of Seaside, Florida. Visit the award page to learn more.

Sign up to be Notified of Future Design Excellence News