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AAAS Works to Certify an Already "Green," Energy-Efficient Headquarters Building
The AAAS headquarters building at 12th Street & New York Avenue NW in Washington, D.C.
Daily water use within the AAAS headquarters facility, located near Metro Center in Washington, D.C., has been cut by 27% since October 2007, and roughly one-third of all solid waste is now being recycled as Building Manager Robert Zayas and his staff are working toward "green building" certification.
Although some 281 metro-D.C. buildings are "registered" with the U.S. Green Building Council, only 26 are actually certified under the group's "Leadership Environmental & Energy Design" (LEED) program, Communications Coordinator Ashley Katz reported.
Following a rigorous, points-based assessment, the Council recognizes four levels of green-building performance—from simple certification, to silver, gold, and platinum-level achievement, explained AAAS consultant Rachel C. Hardesty of SD Keppler and Associates, LLC - Environmental and Energy Consulting.
The gold and platinum certification levels are the most difficult to achieve. For example, gold-level certification as a U.S. Green Building has been achieved by only nine D.C. buildings so far—all newly constructed facilities, Katz said.
AAAS Chief Financial Officer Phillip Blair, who oversees Finance & Administration, said that the green-building certification effort "is really in line with what was intended by our Board of Directors when they designed an environmentally responsible building. It is in line with both their original vision and our ongoing commitment at AAAS to be responsible environmental stewards."
The imposing 12-story building, designed by renowned architect Henry N. Cobb of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, was built as one of D.C.'s finest examples of "green architecture." Key architectural features such as ribbons of extra windows, a pair of 10-story notches that cut vertically into the building, and an extensive system of sensors all help to reduce artificial lighting requirements by up to 60% compared to conventional facilities, Zayas said.
A tree outside the eleventh and twelfth floors
In 2007, AAAS became an Energy Star Recipient—a designation bestowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Currently, the site uses about 96,000 British Thermal Units per square foot (BTU/SF) per year, compared with the "industry standard" for a comparable building, which is 162,000 BTU/SF. Also, AAAS operations release much less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere—1,518 fewer tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide—compared with the industry standard for a similar building, according to Energy Star data. Zayas estimates the Association's annual energy savings as being $167,856.
The AAAS headquarters facility also was named "Building of the Year" in 1998, and then "Corporate Building of the Year" in 1999 by the Apartment and Office Buildings Association (AOBA).
Over the past year, AAAS has been pushing to further improve all aspects of environmental performance in its headquarters building. In evaluating facilities that apply for LEED certification, Hardesty explained, the U.S. Green Building Council assesses performance across six specific categories—the sustainability of the building site; water efficiency; energy and atmosphere; use of materials and resources; indoor environmental quality; and "innovation in operation."
So, efforts are being made to increase recycling, cut back on water use, and continue improving energy efficiency. In October 2007, for example, the building's original toilets, which used 3.6 gallons per flush (GPF), were retrofitted with single-gallon-per-flush technology. In addition, urinals that used 1.6 gallons per flush were retrofitted to use only one-half gallon per flush. Hands-free sink faucets also were installed in all bathrooms.
As a result, Hardesty reported: "AAAS has reduced potable water use from 3,720 gallons daily to 2,738 gallons daily since installing the environmentally conscious water faucets and the more efficient toilets. That is a daily water-use reduction of about 27%, and because AAAS is an existing facility, it will essentially earn 'extra points' for this high level of performance when the U.S. Green Building Council completes its assessment."
Recycling at AAAS represents another "green building" success story: In 2007, the AAAS headquarters facility recycled 16.37 tons of commingled content such as cans, bottles, plastic; 10 tons of mixed paper; and 27 tons of cardboard. That amount represented 32%—nearly one-third—of all solid waste generated within the AAAS headquarters facility last year. By comparison, AAAS recycled only about 20%, or one-fifth, of all such waste in 2006.
"Our goal for 2008 is to recycle between 40 and 50% of any waste generated," Zayas added. "We don't limit ourselves to recycling plastic and paper, either. We have collection stations in our mail room to recycle batteries, toner cartridges, cellular telephones, and electronic equipment."
AAAS Building Services staff members are taking steps to communicate their progress more effectively to employees, too. Zayas wants staff to understand, for example, that the old "white-paper-only" rule no longer applies to modern recycling technologies. "Copies of the journal Science, glossy brochures and documents with staples can all be recycled!" Zayas emphasized. "I want to encourage staff to toss all of those types of items into the blue recycling bins throughout the building."
What other features of the AAAS headquarters building qualify it as a "green" facility? Zayas offered the following additional highlights:
A specially designed air-conditioning system draws 25% more outside air, compared to conventional buildings, mixing it with highly chilled low-volume air to reduce harmful carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide buildup. This improves indoor air quality for building occupants.
Similarly, a high-technology MERV-13 filter, one of the best models available, filters at least 90% of all dust and pollutant particles from incoming air moving into the building, and windows can be opened, ensuring more fresh air for employees.
A significant percentage of energy used to the run the AAAS headquarters building is derived from renewable sources such as wind energy, through an arrangement with the Pepco electric power company.
Sensors shut off lights if no movement is detected in offices, thus saving energy.
Cleaning and maintenance staff use environmentally and health-friendly products whenever possible.
The building is situated one block from Metro Center, making it convenient to public transportation. Underground parking helps to conserve space, and preferential parking is available for drivers of hybrid vehicles.
Smart elevators wait in strategic locations inside the elevator shafts, instead of returning all the way to the bottom or top floors at the end of each trip.
The building's second-floor conference facilities feature large recycling bins, and AAAS staff work to encourage recycling by meeting planners and caterers.
Seeking "green building" status is an appropriate next step for a science society, Zayas noted, and it also may put AAAS ahead of the curve in terms of complying with all city codes. "In the District of Columbia, it is already a mandate for any new construction to be green-certified," he noted. "For existing buildings like AAAS, the certification is not yet a requirement, but we expect that it may soon become mandatory. We want to be a leader in taking the extra steps to keep our facility as environmentally sound as possible."
The next step? AAAS staff are now installing "dual-flush" toilets, which let users select a lighter flush mode when appropriate.
7 July 2008