May 23, 2022

t9oor

The Interior Breakfast

AIA reveals schematic design for first-ever comprehensive renovation of its D.C. headquarters


Like any 50-year-old building, AIA’s Washington, D.C., headquarters
is showing its age. Antiquated, inefficient systems are fraying and breaking
down, an evolving workplace culture has rendered its siloed spaces obsolete,
and the Brutalist ideals that shaped its high-walled street presence have given
way to a desire for transparency and engagement. In short, the building no
longer serves as an efficient or effective space for AIA staff to work or
members to visit, nor does it best reflect the
organization’s values.

“AIA’s headquarters should serve as an expression of the value
architects provide and align with the values we uphold as a profession,” says
AIA 2022 President Dan Hart, FAIA. “We have a responsibility to redesign this
iconic building to the highest standards in sustainability, resilience, and
equity.”

“We have
a responsibility to redesign this iconic building to the highest standards in
sustainability, resilience, and equity.”  – AIA 2022 President Dan
Hart, FAIA

To carry out the building’s first-ever comprehensive renovation,
the Board of Directors selected a project team led by San Francisco–based
architecture firm EHDD, with Hood Design Studio, Hartman-Cox Architects, and Point Energy Innovations as
consultants, and Turner Construction Company overseeing
construction management. The project kicked off in 2020, and now AIA is pleased
to share the team’s schematic design.

The AIA’s headquarters building was designed by The Architects
Collaborative, the Cambridge, Massachusetts–based giant of Postwar Modernism
founded by the likes of John Harkness, FAIA, and Walter Gropius. Intended to
create a statement about Modern architecture in a heavily Federalist
neighborhood, the building used the cutting-edge technology of its day. But 50
years of advancements in building technology show that the lack of insulation
in the concrete walls and the single-paned windows are terribly inefficient. Similarly,
original systems such as gas-fired boilers don’t hold with the sustainable
standards of the day.

If the original building was intended to make a statement about
style, the goal of the renovation is to demonstrate the power of architects and
architecture to transform the existing built environment for an inclusive and
climate-positive future.

Because preserving the embodied carbon is key to decarbonizing the
campus, EHDD developed a scheme—designed in accordance with the Framework
for Design Excellence—that will reinvent the existing building, rather than starting
anew. On the primary south- and west-facing façades, fixed solar shades above
new double-pane low-E glazing will minimize heat gain and create less of a
burden for electrified building systems—all of which will be powered by on- and
off-site renewable energy. A new performative cool roof under a 125 kW PV array
will further regulate the thermal resistance of the structure.

A reprogrammed courtyard will invite members of AIA and the
Washington, D.C., community alike to engage with the building. Relocating the
store to the front of the building along New York Avenue will increase
visibility and foot traffic to the site, inviting people to shop and to stay to
learn more about architecture.

Inside, the glass-lined atrium is being reimagined as an interior
garden, leveraging all the health benefits of biophilia to create a more
dynamic space. The ground-floor welcome center will feature touchdown spaces as
well as galleries that display work from a diverse cross-section of AIA members
and components.

A new lower level will house drop-in collaboration and coworking
spaces and amenities such as a fitness center, mother’s room, library, VR/media
lounges, coffee area, and archives. The second floor will host the AIA’s
advocacy center as well as more coworking space and a hosting suite to provide
office and meeting space for visiting members. The third- and fourth-floor
workspaces for AIA staff will feature open and enclosed collaborative spaces as
well as open-plan workstations and retreats for focused work alongside social
spaces that are lacking in the current setup. This will allow more
interconnectivity between AIA departments that will streamline systems and
benefit members across the country.

“This
headquarters renewal will dramatically transform AIA’s home for staff, members,
and visitors by fostering connection to the community; serving as a model of stewardship
and sustainability for the public and profession; addressing the urgent need
for climate action; and creating a flexible and collaborative work environment
that embodies the AIA’s mission and values.” –  EHDD partner Rebecca
Sharkey, AIA

“This headquarters renewal will dramatically transform AIA’s home
for staff, members, and visitors by fostering connection to the community;
serving as a model of stewardship and sustainability for the public and
profession; addressing the urgent need for climate action; and creating a
flexible and collaborative work environment that embodies the AIA’s mission and
values,” says EHDD partner Rebecca Sharkey, AIA.

While EHDD’s 74-year history is steeped in creating new and
revitalized projects with deep expertise in renovation and expansions, this one
aims higher than ever before. “It will be one of the first fully decarbonized
major renovations in the U.S.,” Sharkey says. “Both embodied and operational
carbon from the renovation will be fully addressed and will demonstrate a
cost-effective path for achieving the AIA 2030 Commitment target of carbon.”

With 2030—and the carbon-neutral targets that come with
it—fast-approaching, and given the dilapidated state of the building, there is
no time like the present for the AIA to embark on this project. And while
financing is still underway, AIA has committed that member dues will not be
increased to cover the cost of the project.

“Given the current state of our headquarters, we can’t afford
not to make this critical investment in the future of our organization and the
profession,” said AIA EVP/Chief Executive Officer Lakisha Ann Woods.
“By transforming our office, we will significantly reduce our carbon
footprint and operational costs while also ensuring we have the physical space
capabilities to meet our future needs. I look forward to welcoming our members,
staff, and community to our renewed space once the renovation is
complete.”

“By
transforming our office, we will significantly reduce our carbon footprint and
operational costs while also ensuring we have the physical space capabilities
to meet our future needs.” – AIA EVP/Chief Executive Officer Lakisha Ann
Woods

In addition to providing a safer and more efficient work and
gathering place for AIA staff and members, the renovation will serve as an
example of what can be done in the built environment. To effect change, AIA
must lead by example.  

“By demonstrating the powerful role design can play in improving
our communities, we can show how to take the action that is needed to move the
needle on climate action and to make the built environment healthier and safer
for future generations,” Hart says. “In order to effectively advocate for these
changes, we must start by taking action ourselves.”



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