Monday, June 15, 2009

Architects’ Institute LEEDs the Way Downtown


Finally leading by example, The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has gotten the go-ahead from the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) to pursue an extensive renovation of their headquarters at 1735 New York Avenue, NW that would see the 36-year-old office building become a LEED-platinum certified facility - making it the first such eco-friendly "do-over" in the history of the District. In the words of NCPC, it would allow the AIA's national headquarters to serve as a "national model of sustainable design and construction."

Located just a few blocks west of the White House, directly behind the historic Octagon House, the AIA’s aging HQ would make the jump from standard downtown office complex to the apex of green design by "installing three building ventilation shafts, using recycled building materials, installing cisterns [for the collection of rainwater], creating a green roof, installing operational windows, and by installing both solar thermal equipment and photovoltaic array on the roof." With those modifications in place, it’s the AIA’s belief that their rehabbed facility will be 100% carbon neutral by 2030.

One facet of the proposed renovation, however, has earned the architects a surprising thumbs down from the local West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, the ANC 2A. As part of their PUD application, the AIA had been hoping to relocate their in-house book and gift shop to a new street-accessible location, adjoining their building’s front plaza. The ANC sees this as a misappropriation of the PUD process because, according to ANC 2A Chair Armando Irizarry, the “proposed public benefits and community amenities package is inconsistent with the DC law since it fails to include any amenities for the immediately impacted Foggy Bottom-West End community.”

Nonetheless, the NCPC recommended that the AIA pursue a variance from the District’s Board of Zoning Adjustment to see that their plans for a newly relocated storefront can proceed unimpeded. A hearing on the matter has yet to scheduled, but if and when the AIA is successful, their newly re-modeled headquarters will join just a handful of LEED-plantinum certified developments in Washington DC. At present, there are only three: PNC Financial Services Group Inc. / Vornado/Charles E. Smith’s Gensler-designed office building at 800 17th Street NW, Sidwell Friends' Middle School addition in Cleveland Park and the US Green Building Council’s (who themselves administrate the LEED program) 22,000-square foot office suite in Dupont Circle.

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