Project Profile: Ballston Exchange Office Building

The former headquarters of the National Science Foundation headquarters was redesigned and retrofitted into a mixed-use project to become a part of a growing community.

By GHT Limited September 1, 2021

Engineering firm: GHT Limited
2021 MEP Giants rank: 85
Project: Ballston Exchange
Location: Arlington, VA, United States
Building type: Office building
Project type: Existing building retrofit
Engineering services: Energy, sustainability; fire, life safety; HVAC, mechanical; plumbing, piping
Project timeline: December 2016 to April 2020
MEP/FP budget: $275,000


Situated in the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor, Ballston Exchange is one of Arlington, VA’s newest destinations, repositioning the former National Science Foundation headquarters into a groundbreaking mixed-use project knitted into the fabric of the community. Ballston Exchange’s design activates the streetscape by introducing a variety of retail, commercial, and public open spaces to support the thriving neighborhood. Offering over 594,606 square feet of new storefronts, restaurants, and office space, as well as direct access to the Metro, the design of the LEED v4 Silver building creates an inviting space that caters to residents, workers, and visitors. Additionally, the project promotes health and wellness through a variety of design strategies and operation programs, while also reducing environmental impact through a building and material reuse strategy. These certifications served as a road map to deliver an innovative project that goes beyond the minimum certification requirements. The team was able to overcome the challenges of working with an existing building, and utilize a long-term community engagement process to ensure that the redevelopment serves as a vibrant destination and source of pride for the neighborhood, tenants, and visitors. Many of the challenges associated with this project were due to the adaptive reuse nature of the project. Those included designing for future flexibility in the space, finding the space for new mechanical equipment and reducing the lifecycle impact of the project.

Ballston Exchange – Interior Atrium – Alternate View. Source: Judy Davis[/caption]


When approaching this adaptive reuse project, the building owner Jamestown, together with the team prioritized a low life cycle impact through a design that would adapt to shifting demands over the lifespan of the building. This includes flexible common area spaces and floors that can be easily subdivided, connected, or shifted to a different use type (such as converting retail to office or vice versa) to meet future market demand. Walkability and community connectivity were identified as priority issues for a number of residents and workers, among other stakeholders. As buildings become more energy-efficient, an increasing percentage of carbon emissions are attributed to the embodied carbon of materials from which they are made. Ballston Exchange maintained 90.4% of the building surface area and its corresponding embodied carbon, reducing the life cycle impact of the redevelopment. Additionally, the diversion of over 93% of construction waste helped further reduce the life cycle impact of the project.

Ballston Exchange – Exterior Renovations and Storefront. Source: Judy Davis[/caption]