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DC nonprofit AGU retrofits HQ to ‘net zero’

The American Geophysical Union is spending $41 million to turn its 20-year-old Dupont Circle headquarters into one of the most energy-efficient buildings in the country. (Courtesy The American Geophysical Union)

WASHINGTON — Green building is common in new commercial construction in D.C., but The American Geophysical Union is spending $41 million to turn its 20-year-old Dupont Circle headquarters into one of the most energy-efficient buildings in the country.

The goal is to achieve “net zero,” or an annual balance between energy demand and the creation of energy on-site.

It will be the first organization in the District to renovate an existing building to achieve net zero goals.

The major construction project, which is scheduled to start in March 2017, has received unanimous approval from the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B, the Historic Preservation Review Board and the Board of Zoning Adjustment.

Additions will include rooftop photovoltaic solar, a sewer exchange system that will recover thermal energy from wastewater, a green wall to reduce energy loads and improve indoor air quality, a direct current grid with DC LED lighting, a radiant cooling system, new insulation, glass shading and new windows.

It will also incorporate cisterns, a centuries-old method for collecting and using rainwater.

“So we’ll be able to really minimize the amount of water we have to take out of the D.C. water system,” AGU Chief Executive Chris McEntee told WTOP.

The building’s renovation will also reuse and repurpose existing building materials and recycled construction debris.

With a $41 million budget, why not just build a new headquarters?

“It is more environmentally friendly and less carbon-intensive to reuse what’s in the building than to actually start new with things that have to be manufactured and created from new,” McEntee said.

AGU plans to reopen its headquarters in time for its 51st annual Fall Meeting, which will bring more than 20,000 scientists to the District in December 2018.

Partners on the project include Hickok Cole Architects, Interface Engineering and Skanska Development & Construction.

Read more about AGU’s headquarters reboot.

The nonprofit scientific organization has more than 60,000 members in 139 countries.

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