New Geophysical Union HQ To Achieve Net-Zero Energy Goals

The American Geophysical Union is renovating its DC-based building to better support the environment, its employees, and the public.

Beginning in 2017, the American Geophysical Union will redesign its headquarters to be the first renovated commercial building to reach net-zero energy goals in Washington, DC.

“If a building could be a physical embodiment of an organization’s mission, vision, and values, this is probably as close as you could get,” said AGU Executive Director and CEO Chris McEntee, FASAE.

By going to net-zero energy, we’re going to be able to reduce our contribution to that serious societal issue of climate change.

Through the renovation process, 23 technologies will be introduced to help AGU’s building reduce energy consumption, as well as absorb and generate energy. These will include solar panels on the roof, a sewer heat exchange system, and a water cistern to collect and reuse rainwater for non-potable purposes. Once everything is implemented, AGU’s building will actually add more energy to the grid each year.

AGU will also publically share all the data and information collected on the building construction and technology implementation so others can replicate the process.

“By going to net-zero energy, we’re going to be able to reduce our contribution to that serious societal issue of climate change,” McEntee said. “And we’re going to be doing it in a way that others can replicate. So we’re hoping that others will look at this and say, ‘OK, if they can do that, we can do this also.’”

In addition, AGU is making efforts to reduce its carbon footprint during construction by reusing existing building materials. For example, it will grind down discarded bricks from the roof and make them into tiles for floors and walls.

And the space will be as good for employees as for the environment. Features like a connecting staircase between floors, bicycle storage area, fitness center, and shower facilities will encourage increased activity. A new green wall will promote air filtration in the space, and the open office concept will increase access to daylight.

For the public, the building will house a museum on earth and space science, as well as meeting and conference areas for members and the community to use. The museum exhibits will be regularly updated, and AGU will offer tours of the facility to demonstrate how it meets net-zero goals.

“Certainly this will be a great way to educate the public about the earth and space science research that benefits them every day, contributes to their public safety, and allows them to have the weather data they need to be able to be safe in adverse weather events,” McEntee said.

To those questioning the premium required to achieve net zero, McEntee explains that while the environment should be worth the extra cost, the energy savings will also cover it.

“You can’t afford not to do it if you really want to be part of the DC community that actually has an objective to go to net zero,” she said. “And even outside of DC, if we really want to address the societal issue of climate change and energy demand, then all of us have to figure out how we can move forward to be able to contribute to that goal.”

An artist's rendering of the AGU building redesign. (Handout photo)

Alex Beall

By Alex Beall

Alex Beall is an associate editor for Associations Now with a masters in journalism and a penchant for Instagram. MORE

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