The American Institute of Architects (AIA) yesterday unveiled plans by San Francisco-based EHDD for a comprehensive renovation of its aging Washington, D.C. headquarters. The long-discussed project, which is designed to make the 1973 building operationally carbon-free and facilitate contemporary patterns of usage, also includes new landscaping and a glazed brise-soleil to be added on the exterior.

According to the AIA, the renovation is targeting LEED Platinum certification and is expected to reduce energy use by 58 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels, meeting the energy targets of the AIA’s 2030 Commitment. Solar panels will be added on the roof, and double-pane, bird-safe windows will be installed throughout the building. Two gas-fired boilers, which have been in use since the complex opened, will be replaced with electric heat pumps.

“It will be one of the first fully decarbonized major renovations in the U.S.,” said EHDD partner Rebecca Sharkey in an AIA release. “Both embodied and operational carbon from the renovation will be fully addressed and will demonstrate a cost-effective path for achieving the AIA 2030 Commitment target of carbon.”  

The interior redesign “eliminates hierarchical spaces,” according to the release, and makes executive areas more accessible. Renderings show a variety of informal seating areas, a new staircase that appears to be made of mass timber, and extensive plantings that seem to spill from one floor to another.

Among the contributors to the project are six students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), who worked virtually as project interns from April to August of 2021. The students helped envision and design the AIA’s post-Covid-19 workplace.

The existing building was designed by The Architect’s Collaborative, the Boston-based firm co-founded by Walter Gropius, after an initial competition-winning design by Philadelphia’s Mitchell/Giurgola failed to gain traction with Washington’s notoriously strict design authorities. The concrete structure has a sharply curving façade that serves as a backdrop to the historic brick Octagon House (1799), which is now operated as a museum by the Architects’ Foundation, the AIA’s philanthropic arm.

“By demonstrating the powerful role design can play in improving our communities, we can show how to take the action that is needed to move the needle on climate action and to make the built environment healthier and safer for future generations,” said AIA President Dan Hart. “In order to effectively advocate for these changes, we must start by taking action ourselves.”