Project Update

Major Milestone Achieved in Path to AGU Headquarters Renovation Approval

Earlier this spring I shared a progress report on our plans to renovate AGU’s headquarters, with the goal of having the building become a living representation of our mission and the sciences we represent, celebrate, and help to advance. I’m pleased to let you know that in late May we took a significant step forward when the District of Columbia’s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) unanimously supported our latest design. The HPRB is the official body of advisors appointed by the mayor to guide the government and public on preservation matters in D.C.

Rendering of the proposed view from intersection of Florida Avenue and 20th Street.

Updated rendering of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) headquarters.

The design they endorsed will make it possible for us to become the first-ever existing commercial building to achieve “net zero” in D.C., while also remaining compatible with the values of the historic district we call home. (While the current AGU headquarters building is not historic, it does sit at the northern edge of the Dupont Circle Historic District.) AGU and our team of architects and engineers had previously presented to the HPRB, whose members highlighted several issues and concerns, among them: the height and visual weight of the photovoltaic array as seen from the street; the design of the windows; and the design of the main entry and publicly accessible spaces.

Over the past few months, the project team has strived to address these issues by lowering the array, improving the streetscape design, and making the public plaza more accessible. To make the new exhibit space on the main floor more visible and inviting, the windows on that level were enlarged, and adjustments were also made to the window design for the rest of the building in an effort to maintain some of the existing character, which is much beloved by the community.

Rendering of the proposed view from ground level entry.

Updated rendering of the ground level streetscape and entry.

As gratifying as the formal approval by the HPRB was, it was equally notable that the building received enthusiastic support from our neighbors and Dupont Circle’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC 2B). The ANC’s Daniel Warwick said, “This is model for sustainable development that we hope is replicable for greater Washington.” He urged that the Board give the project unanimous support. In addition to the ANC, representatives from the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, Greater Greater Washington, and the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Sierra Club, all spoke in favor of the project. News coverage of the project includes: Greater Greater Washington, Borderstan, and The Northwest Current.

While we are very pleased about this milestone, more milestones remain, including exemptions from D.C. zoning authorities and final approval of the design, cost, and funding by the AGU Board during its December 2016 meeting. Construction is tentatively scheduled to begin in early 2017.

This summer will be a busy time for the project, as we begin to finalize our designs and seek out formal approval from the remaining agencies and regulatory bodies. I look forward to reporting our progress to you. In the meantime, I want to let you know that we have launched a new website for the project. This site will be your new source of information on the project, ranging from hearing dates, to design schematics, to information about the specific technologies we will be using. I encourage you to take a look at the site and share your thoughts with us about this exciting project. This renovation is grounded in AGU’s mission, and in making our headquarters a place where members can engage with one another—and the public—around our science and its power to ensure a sustainable future. I think you will be as excited as I am about the progress we have made toward achieving this important goal.