People Power

AGU Partners with Catholic University Architecture Students for Mini-Ecodistrict Project

By May 30, 2017 No Comments

Keeping our commitment to include collaboration and participatory design as vital components to a transparent planning process, AGU recently partnered with The Catholic University of America’s School of Architecture and Planning (CUArch) to reimagine the design of the building’s loading dock for the net zero renovation of our headquarters.

What is currently underutilized space for a dumpster and recycling, along with required egress, the loading dock will remain an essential component to the building’s operations, even after the renovation. As part of an ongoing internship program between CUArch and MGAC (AGU’s owner’s rep), AGU had the opportunity to work with Professor Bradley Guy’s design and ethics class – comprised of 21 graduate and undergraduate, architecture, city and regional planning, sustainable design, political science, and civil engineering students – to redesign and integrate sustainable development strategies into the space to reduce its ecological footprint.

Photo of Ben Tauber, a landscape architect with Lee and Associates, Inc.

Ben Tauber, Lee and Associates, Inc. (landscape architect)

Kicking off with a mini-charrette in February, the project provided CUArch students with the opportunity to practice incorporating stakeholders and the community into the design process, and learn how sustainable design can extend beyond scientific principles to human inclusion. The 90-minute creative activity was co-facilitated by leaders from AGU and our multidisciplinary project team – including representatives from MGAC, Hickok Cole Architects and Lee and Associates, Inc. – as well as project interns and students from CUArch. Community neighbors from ANC 2B were also invited to participate as part of AGU’s commitment to public engagement.

Photograph of the Catholic University charette.

Photo from the Catholic University charette featuring CUArch students and the AGU Building Project team.

“I think seeing this spoke to the value Catholic University places on sustainable design and engaging sustainability in every manner possible, no matter how small – a value CUArch and AGU have in common,” said MGAC intern and CUArch student Kelly Reed. “It was a great feeling showing others what I have learned and been a part of, and hopefully we’ve given our peers some ideas for their future work in regards to sustainability.” [Read more about Reed’s intern experience.]

Photograph of MGAC CUArch interns and CUArch professor Bradley Guy (pictured center).

MGAC CUArch interns and CUArch professor Bradley Guy (pictured center).

Students surveyed participants to determine what amenities would be a welcome addition to the neighborhood to better utilize the loading dock space while reducing its overall environmental footprint. Project team partners continued to meet with students throughout the semester to provide thoughtful critiques for the students’ progress sketches and ideas.

The project culminated with an opportunity for the project team to review and vote on the best creative design ideas, and to help assist with grading the students’ work.

Photograph of the student poster with the winning design renderings.

Photograph of the student poster with the winning design renderings.

The “winning” design includes features that encourage social interaction with both the environment and the community, such as:

  • Native plant species that require low maintenance
  • Bird feeders and plants that attract D.C.’s native bird species
  • A mixture of stone pavers and artificial turf to reduce maintenance, but provide the aesthetic of a green environment
  • Community-made water globes using recycled bottles
  • Artistic murals
  • A mobile kiosk to bring outside vendors to activate the space for neighborhood residents and employees

AGU would like to extend a thank you to Professor Bradley Guy and his CUArch students, as well as all of the AGU staff, project team partners and our neighbors who helped make this learning opportunity possible.

We look forward to further collaboration as we explore the CUArch student ideas and to hopefully find funding to bring some of these creative ideas to reality!