Project Update

Incorporating Recycling into a Net Zero Energy Building Renovation

By November 15, 2016 One Comment

Today is America Recycles Day and many people across the country are pledging to recycle more and reduce their waste footprint. As an organization that cares deeply about the sustainability of our planet, recycling is something that’s important to the American Geophysical Union (AGU), and I’d like to share how we’re incorporating recycling and reuse into our renovation project.

As you’re likely aware, we designed our renovated building to meet a net zero energy goal to showcase AGU headquarters as a physical representation of the spirit and values of AGU’s mission of “science for the benefit of humanity.” We’ve shared in past posts how innovative technologies are a part of our design strategy and sustainability is a high priority. But in planning for a new building, you might not realize how much that entails.

Photo of the AGU lobby wood paneled wall

Wood paneling in the AGU Headquarters lobby

At 62,000 square feet, our office building currently houses a conference center along with four floors of office space, a lunchroom, kitchen, and other amenities. In the spirit of sustainability, we challenged our project partners with helping us find a way to reduce our own waste beyond energy by repurposing into the new design or donating and recycling some of the furniture and materials that make up our building. These items vary from the more valuable pieces like the stonework compass rose and petrified wood countertop in our lobby, which we’ll be saving and incorporating into the updated lobby, down to the mundane like first aid cabinets, exit signs, wall sconces, and even old doors, some of which we’ll reuse or donate to other organizations.  I’ve outlined a few of our unique recycling/reuse ideas below:

  • Wooden wall panels – We’ll be incorporating these panels from our first floor lobby and conference rooms into the new design as both wall panels, and repurposing some as benches in the new space.
  • Stackable chairs – We have more than 180 stackable chairs, in good condition, which are currently used in our conference center. Rather than discarding them, we’ll be reupholstering these chairs to fit the new design elements.
  • Doors – AGU has more than 60 doors in the building, ranging from stairwell and bathroom doors to office doors. Our renovated design features an open floor plan negating the need for many of these doors. We plan to repaint and refurbish those we need and donate the remainder to a project such as Habitat for Humanity.
  • Shelving – As we transition to a more online-based work environment and are using less paper, we need less storage.
    Photo of green roof plants at AGU

    Green roof plants at AGU Headquarters

    We’re looking at opportunities to donate our more than 40 various shelves, bookcases, and large filing cabinets to D.C. Public Schools or a local food bank that needs more storage capacity.

  • Green roof plants ­– Although our roof will be undergoing an extensive redesign that includes a solar array and outdoor event space, our current roof is home to 268 green roof planters. A green roof has several environmental benefits and we’re looking to store these plants during our renovation so we can incorporate them into the new roof design.

These are just a handful of examples of what we’re looking to recycle and repurpose. Our overall goal has been to highlight and incorporate sustainability throughout the entire lifecycle of the renovation as we seek to reduce AGU’s carbon footprint and achieve our net zero energy goal. The renovated building will promote best practices in sustainability and serve as a center to grow AGU’s mission—creative recycling is just one aspect.