Project Update

Celebrating Earth Day Every Day: AGU Incorporates Old Practices into New Design

By April 20, 2018 No Comments

Each year on April 22, Americans celebrate Earth Day and take time to think about how they can protect the environment beyond the usual, “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” As an international society representing 60,000 Earth and space scientists from 137 countries around the globe, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) celebrates and elevates environmental protection every day of the year.

The renovation of the existing headquarters is challenging AGU to lead by example and demonstrate that an organization dedicated to furthering Earth and space sciences can be a model for sustainable design. Innovative technologies are part of the sustainable design strategy, but as we celebrate Earth Day this year we’re taking a look at some of unique ways the “reduce, reuse, and recycle” motto is folded into the fabric of the project, reminding us it can sometimes be the best place to start.

Reducing Energy Loads with a Hy-Phy Green Wall

A hydroponic phytoremediation wall system, or hy-phy green wall, will work with the building’s DOAS system to reduce energy loads and improve the indoor air quality. It’s central location in the building allows it to effectively collect all the return air from each floor for filtering. Most buildings are ventilated with outside air and must be heated in the winter and cooled in the summer which accounts for more than 30 percent of the energy consumed by a building. The green wall allows indoor air that is already at the right temperature and humidity to be circulated through the root system of the live plants where it will be cleaned and filtered of carbon dioxide before passing back into the building. The return air that passes through the hy-phy wall filtering will be monitored for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and CO2 levels that will be compared to the outside air conditions.

Stacks of recycled bricks

Brick from the original structure sits in the first floor lobby ready to be reused.

If the return air inside of the building is cleaner than the air that would be brought in from outside, then the return air will be recirculated into the building instead of bringing in new outside air, effectively reducing the amount of energy needed to condition the fresh air. The less energy the DOAS unit requires to clean the fresh air, the more energy cost savings.

Reusing Bricks from the Original Structure

In certain places like the building’s Prow, a glass feature at the corner of 20th Street and Florida Avenue, the vitrines and the west elevation of the building, the project team demolished certain areas to make way for the new design. The salvaged brick will be reused to replace anything taken out. On the west side of the building, the existing brick will be used to fill where a loading dock used to be, and where the penthouse structure used to sit.


Recycling Materials for Terrazzo Flooring

AGU made the decision to have terrazzo flooring throughout the new building. Terrazzo flooring is a composite material consisting of chips made of granite, glass, or other sustainable materials.

Slabs of black granite flooring.

Stone from the first floor lobby was saved for crushing into terrazzo mix.

One of the reasons AGU chose terrazzo is because they could recycle aspects of the original building. Instead of just chucking old materials, the project team’s subcontractor crushed the materials to the right size to use in the terrazzo mix which will be installed in the new building and used as the top of the main conference room table. While many areas of the building needed upgrades, there were some materials that could be repurposed and used for years to come.

When the building is complete AGU members and the public will have the chance to tour the new building, so be sure to look out for these aspects of the building and other unique recycling and reuse ideas that put an Earth Day philosophy to practice every day.