U.S. Green Building Council Awards AAAS First Gold-Level Certification for Existing D.C. Buildings

The American Association for the Advancement of Science headquarters building has earned gold-level certification through the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) program.

AAAS is the first and so far the only building in Washington, D.C. to achieve the gold level of certification under the LEED for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) rating system.

The AAAS headquarters building at 12th Street & New York Avenue NW in Washington, D.C.

The AAAS headquarters building at 12th Street & New York Avenue NW in Washington, D.C.

The association has managed to reduce daily water consumption by 39% since 2007, while nearly half of all solid waste generated in the building is now being recycled, reported AAAS Building Manager Robert Zayas. Built in 1996 based on a design by renowned architect Henry N. Cobb of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, AAAS headquarters is believed to be one of the country’s finest examples of green architecture.

“The AAAS mission is to advance science, engineering and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people,” said AAAS Chief Executive Officer Alan I. Leshner, who also serves as executive publisher of the journal Science. “We are therefore extremely proud and honored to be able to demonstrate environmental leadership within our headquarters facility.”

Setting the Pace for Existing Buildings

To date, some 433 D.C. buildings are registered with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), according to the group’s communications coordinator, Marie Coleman. Among those registered, 54 are currently certified under the group’s LEED rating system, she added.

USGBC recognizes four levels of green-building performance—certified, silver, gold, and platinum-level achievement—across a half-dozen rating categories, recognizing excellence in new construction, commercial interiors, existing buildings and more. Across all rating categories, only 23 facilities in the District of Columbia have so far achieved gold-level certification from USGBC, and another five facilities have earned platinum, Coleman reported.

However, AAAS is now the District of Columbia’s only existing, not newly constructed green building to “win the gold,” Zayas said.

Key Accomplishments and Building Features

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A tree outside the eleventh and twelfth floors.

Located near Metro Center at 1200 New York Avenue, N.W., with a primary entrance at 12th and H Streets, N.W., the AAAS building was originally designed to help reduce environmentally harmful atmospheric emissions, increase energy efficiency, and promote good health and comfort for employees. Underground parking conserves space and prevents runoff, and the building’s location near public transportation as well as preferential parking for hybrid-vehicle drivers helps to minimize emissions.

Operations at AAAS release much less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere—1518 fewer tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide per year as of 2008—compared with the industry standard for a similar building, according to data available through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program.

Also as of 2008, Zayas reported, the site was using about 96,000 British Thermal Units of energy per square foot (BTU/SF) per year, versus the industry standard for a comparable building, which is 162,000 BTU/SF. Through an arrangement with the Pepco electric power company, AAAS also has arranged to meet 50% of its energy needs based on renewable sources such as wind energy, Zayas said.

AAAS has reported significant progress in saving water and reducing waste, too.

In 2008, AAAS recycled nearly one-half, or 48% of all solid waste generated in the building—25.96 tons of commingled content such as cans, bottles, and plastic; 18.94 tons of mixed paper; and 36.6 tons of cardboard. By comparison, only one-fifth of all waste produced within the facility was recycled in 2006. AAAS recycles plastic, paper, cans, cellular telephones, toner cartridges, batteries, and more. The building’s second-floor conference facilities encourage recycling by visitors and vendors.

AAAS also has pushed to reduce water consumption. In 2007, the organization’s approximate daily water usage was 3700 gallons per day. An initial plumbing upgrade was calculated to reduce the daily water usage by 26.3%. After the upgrade was completed in 2009, daily water usage at AAAS was calculated to be approximately 2600 gallons, for a total usage reduction of 39%. Retrofitting plumbing with more efficient technologies was a key to the improvements, according to Rachel C. Hardesty of SD Keppler and Associates, LLC – Environmental and Energy Consulting.

Unique 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 in the AAAS facility. Such features may improve staff comfort at the same time. “AAAS management believes that when occupants and tenants have access to natural daylight and views to the exterior, they may be able to work more comfortably and efficiently,” Zayas noted. “We estimate that 90% of all regularly occupied spaces in the building have a direct line-of-sight to the outdoors.”

Environmentally friendly cleaning products and individual temperature controls are among the other strategies that AAAS has put in place to enhance employee comfort, he added.

A History of Environmental Stewardship

AAAS headquarters was dedicated 4 September 1997 as the AAAS William T. Golden Center for Science and Engineering, in honor of the Association’s long-time treasurer, a pivotal figure in the history of American science policy who died in 2007.

The facility exemplifies the AAAS Board of Director’s original vision for environmental stewardship, according to AAAS Chief Financial Officer Phillip Blair. “The gold certification for the AAAS headquarters facility is a great tribute to our Board and to staff members who have worked so hard to maintain an environmentally responsible facility,” Blair said.

“The green building movement offers an unprecedented opportunity to respond to the most important challenges of our time, including global climate change, dependence on non-sustainable and expensive sources of energy, and threats to human health,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair of USGBC. “The importance of retrofitting existing buildings, and the work of innovative projects such as the AAAS headquarters facility, is a fundamental driving force in the green building movement.”

A member of the U.S. Green Building Council, AAAS became an Energy Star Recipient in 2007. In addition, the headquarters facility was named “Building of the Year” in 1998 by the Apartment and Office Buildings Association (AOBA). In 1999, the facility was named “Corporate Building of the Year” by AOBA.

About The U.S. Green Building Council and LEED®

The U.S. Green Building Council is a nonprofit membership organization whose vision is a sustainable built environment within a generation. Its membership includes corporations, builders, universities, government agencies, and other nonprofit organizations. Since USGBC’s founding in 1993, the Council has grown to more than 20,000 member companies and organizations, a comprehensive family of LEED® green building rating systems, an expansive educational offering, the industry’s popular Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, and a network of 78 local chapters, affiliates, and organizing groups.

The Council’s LEED green building certification system is the foremost program for the design, construction and operation of green buildings. Currently, 35,000 projects are participating in the LEED system in all 50 states and 91 countries.