Bob Schofield, the vice president of development at Akridge, a commercial real estate firm based in Washington, DC, jokes that the company was doing LEED-level work before LEED standards were even developed—and he’s right. In 1995 (three years before LEED was developed), Akridge completed the headquarters for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a building that incorporated many of the features found in LEED Platinum buildings today. Since its inception, the award-winning commercial real estate firm has made every effort to be as sustainable as possible. Today, Akridge remains committed to establishing, supporting, and incorporating green initiatives into every property it develops or manages.
Akridge’s dedication to sustainability is evident at its 169,000-square-foot, trophy-class office project at 1200 Seventeenth Street, NW in Washington, DC. Akridge has partnered with Mitsui Fudosan, Japan’s largest real estate company, to develop the future home for Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. “Mitsui Fudosan and Akridge share the same goals,” Schofield says. “We’re both long-term thinkers with a global perspective, and we value high quality projects. For both of us, sustainability aligns with our companies’ common philosophies.”
The space is scheduled for completion in summer 2014 and hopes to achieve LEED Platinum certification. It will feature floor-to-ceiling glass and unique amenities—including a client-only fitness center, a green roof with entertainment space, bike storage and changing facilities, and an impressive lobby with stone and wood finishes. “The client was looking for a fresh trophy building that was both highly efficient and aesthetically beautiful,” Schofield says. “I also believe they recognized the long-term benefits of sustainability and understood that embracing green design was an important consideration in their search for a new office building.”
The office will have the usual features associated with LEED buildings: low-flow fixtures, Energy Star-rated components, a green roof, and FSC-certified wood. Although the building’s existing structure wasn’t reused, it was recycled and portions were used as a supportive structure during excavation. The outside of the building will feature glazed terra-cotta elements, a component of a more modern building skin design. The glazed terra-cotta, however, is a building material that has been used since antiquity, which Schofield finds incredibly compelling.
Schofield believes that the building’s differentiator will be its dedicated outdoor air, variable-air-volume (DOAS VAV) system. Akridge was one of the first developers to begin using this kind of system in commercial applications within the DC area. The concept is pretty new and many firms were apprehensive to use it because of the high initial cost. “This technology was too good not to take advantage of,” Schofield says. “For many, it was a cost issue. We’ve worked diligently with our designers, contractors, and component suppliers to lower costs. Our latest design is about the same cost of a conventional HVAC system. Many of our local competitors are now embracing the technology in their most current designs, but I believe we were the initial innovators in DC.”
In most office buildings, HVAC systems cool the air before the air is distributed, thus moving the energy through a conditioned volume of air. With a DOAS VAV design, the outdoor air is initially preconditioned as it enters the building in order to remove humidity. Much of the cooling, however, occurs downstream at the ceiling VAV boxes, just before the air enters the individual rooms. The cooling energy is distributed to the VAV boxes by water in lieu of air. Since water requires less horsepower than air to distribute per BTU, the system is inherently more efficient. Additionally, since the only air moving in the system is the dedicated outside air necessary for breathing (not cooling), the ductwork can be reduced by approximately 75 percent. So a DOAS VAV isn’t really relying on new technology; it’s using conventional HVAC equipment configured in a new way. According to a study from ASHRAE, a DOAS can annually reduce energy consumption by 42 percent compared to a traditional system.
“We always build on the lessons we’ve learned from past projects, and we’re dedicated to incorporating everything we’ve learned about sustainability into our new projects,” Schofield says. “We like being innovators. Akridge will remain at the forefront of sustainability, and with every project we push to develop an even better building product.”