How a sustainability approach helped Washington, D.C., achieve LEED Platinum as a city

Washington, D.C., earned the distinction of becoming the world's first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum City through the LEED for Cities initiative was launched in 2016, which tasked the city with setting energy efficiency goals. Dewberry helped in that initiative with a variety of projects.

By Kevin McNiff and Brian Tanner, Dewberry February 20, 2018

In the summer of 2017, Washington, D.C., earned the distinction of becoming the world’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum City. LEED is a certificate program created by the U.S. Green Building Council that designates buildings with high performance in key areas of human and environmental health.

The LEED for Cities initiative was launched in 2016; presumably as an outgrowth of the LEED Neighborhoods certification. It asks a city to set goals, implement strategies, and share performance data across an array of metrics, including energy, water, waste, transportation, and "human experience."

Washington, D.C., was evaluated on such factors as whether the city is reducing greenhouse gas emissions, supporting clean energy innovation, and focusing on inclusivity, prosperity, and livability.

Approach to sustainability

For more than 30 years, and even before LEED certification, Dewberry’s mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineers (MEP) have taken an innovative approach to sustainability and energy efficiency in their work. When LEED standards were established, they validated the sustainable designs that Dewberry was already incorporating into its projects.

To create sustainable, energy-efficient projects, Dewberry has long focused on several areas, which overlap with LEED criteria: 

  1. Energy efficiency
  2. Indoor air quality (IAQ)
  3. Water savings.

For example, to create more energy efficient heating and cooling systems, Dewberry MEP has relied on low temperature, high efficiency chilled water designs that utilize wide differential temperatures designs. These wide differential temperature systems deliver the same cooling capacity while using less air and water flow at significantly reduced horsepower. Dewberry utilizes heat wheels to exchange heat with the exhaust systems to capture energy from within the building that would otherwise be lost.

Regarding indoor air quality, Dewberry designs focus on pre-conditioning the outdoor air prior to it entering the building HVAC system through use of a dedicated outdoor handling unit. This unit is then the single point at which moisture removal and air filtration occurs, managing moisture and minimizing any biological growth. Dewberry also implements Demand Control Ventilation, which uses CO2 sensors to control the amount of outside air based on actual demand.

On water efficiency, low-flow plumbing fixtures have been a staple of our designs since LEED influenced the market. Through these and numerous other sustainable design features, Dewberry has driven the Washington-area market with innovation in sustainable engineering. Below, read more about a few projects where Dewberry was a member of the design team and exemplified LEED building in our nation’s capital.

City Center DC

Encompassing an entire city block, City Center DC was one of the largest redevelopments in Washington, D.C., and one of the biggest projects to take place on the East Coast following the 2008 economic crisis. Dewberry worked with international developer Hines and architects Foster + Partners and Shalom Baranes Associates, P.C., to provide mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering for the mixed-use project, comprising two 11-story high rise office buildings totaling 450,000-sq-ft, two rental apartment buildings totaling 485,000-sq-ft, two condo buildings totaling 390,000-sq-ft, 100,000 sq ft of retail, and a 900,000-sq-ft parking structure—2.2 million-sq-ft of development in all. The residential buildings were designed in accordance with LEED Silver guidelines, and the office project achieved LEED Gold status.

1200 Nineteenth Street, NW

1200 Nineteenth Street is a LEED Platinum, 11-story tower set in Washington, D.C.’s Central Business District. Working with international developer Hines and architect SmithGroup, Dewberry engineered a complete gut and replacement of the building’s mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. The project included a three-story addition, bringing the building to a total of 340,000 sq ft. The project involved replacing the building’s façade and MEP systems while keeping the ground level retail tenants in place and operational.

Lafayette Tower – 801 17th Street, NW

Dewberry worked with developer Louis Dreyfus and architect Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates LLC to provide MEP engineering services on Washington, D.C.’s first LEED Platinum certified office building. The 320,000-sq-ft office tower with ground-level and below-grade retail and restaurant tenants was initially designed for LEED Gold certification. When the owner discovered the project was a few points away from achieving LEED Platinum, Dewberry discussed with the owner regarding MEP-related credits that had previously not been submitted and developed strategies to allow the team to submit and be awarded these credits.

NPR Headquarters – 601 Massachusetts Avenue, NW

Dewberry worked closely with developer Boston Properties and architect Hickok Cole Architects to design this build-to-suit office facility, which includes a two-story newsroom, broadcast facilities, recording studios, operations center, office space, data center, auditorium, full-service kitchen and staff cafeteria, fitness center, and stand-by power generation plant.

Part of the building was designated as historic—the original warehouse building was one of the Bell labs where Alexander Graham Bell manufactured telephones. The new, seven-story structure was built from the center of the old façade, and interior designs fused the old and the new. An additional challenge was designing whisper-quiet mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems appropriate for a radio station. Emergency power generators and redundant HVAC systems ensured studio occupants would not be affected by a power interruption. This 336,000-sq-ft, seven-story "mini-city" obtained LEED Gold status.

Square 54 – 2200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Dewberry worked with developer Boston Properties to provide mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering for this ten-story, 460,000-sq-ft office building, 450,000-sq-ft parking structure, and central courtyard with a unique water feature. The trophy-class office tower designed by Pelli Clark Pelli Architects in association with Hickok Cole Architects is part of a 2.6-acre, smart growth area in a redevelopment site known as The Avenue. Dewberry designed the building’s HVAC systems, resulting in the project achieving the maximum number of LEED points for energy efficiency. The project achieved LEED Gold status in 2011.

1101 New York Avenue, NW, and 20 M Street SE

This pair of high-rise office buildings with below-grade parking were the two first LEED Gold certified buildings in Washington, D.C.

On 1101 New York Avenue, Dewberry worked with architect Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates LLC, designing the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems for this 300,000-sq-ft high-rise office building. The owner’s vision for the project included floor-to-floor, full-height glass that was reasonably clear to allow for increased visible light transmittance. Without Dewberry’s MEP systems design and its exceptional energy efficiency, this would not have been allowed by code. The design also allows for improved daylighting for building occupants. The project achieved LEED Gold certification in 2008.

20 M Street, SE, was a much talked-about project because it was one of the first new buildings located near Nationals Park. Dewberry worked with developer Lerner Enterprises and architect WDG Architecture, PLLC on the MEP systems for this 190,000-sq-ft office building with a 76,000-sq-ft below-grade garage. The project achieved LEED Gold certification in 2008.

Kevin McNiff, senior project manager, Dewberry; Brian M. Tanner, PE, CEM, CxA, LEED AP BD+C, senior associate, Dewberry. This article originally appeared on Dewberry’s blog. Dewberry is a CFE Media content partner.

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