In 2013, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Board of Directors commissioned a study of their circa 1994 headquarters building, located on the northern edge of the historic DuPont Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC. The purpose of the study was to assess the useful life of the building’s aging systems and infrastructure, but the result was the start of what would be one of the most important renovation projects in the city’s history. Inspired by the work their members do every day to protect the planet and further the field of Earth and space science, AGU embraced this opportunity to “walk the talk” when it comes to their mission – and potentially complete the first Net-Zero renovation of a commercial office building in DC.
To achieve their unprecedented vision, AGU required a team that shared their values and commitment to delivering both an engaging work environment for its 120 full-time staff and a replicable and transparent example of sustainability for the world. MGAC was the first firm engaged, advising AGU leadership through the critical RFP and selection process to bring the right architecture, engineering, and construction partners on-board from the beginning. MGAC led a highly collaborative design process; navigated approvals from the AGU Board, local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, and Historic Preservation Review Board; and earned the enthusiastic support of District of Columbia government officials. Specific high-performance design strategies include rooftop photovoltaic panels, a municipal sewer heat exchange system, hydroponic phytoremediation, rainwater harvesting cisterns, low flow plumbing, a radiant cooling system, and an enhanced building envelope.
It’s been nearly 20 years since the original five-story headquarters building was completed, but its future is as bright as ever – finding new life as a modern workplace and inspirational embodiment of AGU’s mission to “advance science and its power to ensure a sustainable future.”