Washington, DC

American Geophysical Union

Service Type

Project Type

62,000 SF


WBC Craftsmanship Awards, Finishes, Ceramic Tile and Terrazzo; ABC Metro Washington and Virginia Chapters Excellence in Construction Awards, Award of Excellence; Department of Energy and the Environment, Clean Energy DC Award (first ever recipient)

The American Geophysical Union is dedicated to advancing science and ensuring a sustainable future for all. In 2015, its thirty-year-old headquarters required an upgrade and replacement of all its systems. AGU seized upon the opportunity to leverage its headquarters renovation as a physical embodiment of the organization’s mission and the fight against climate change.

The result is the first-ever net zero energy headquarter renovation in Washington, DC and the greater Mid-Atlantic region. Seeking to encourage wider adoption of high performance design strategies, AGU is open to the public and designed as a living lab with informational graphics highlighting AGU’s mission and indicating points of interest, including an open command center and systems room on the concourse level. A model for reducing the built environment’s carbon footprint and the environmental impact of business operations, AGU’s headquarters showcases real-world scientific advancement through innovative sustainable technology.

The Board approval represents a significant milestone capping off an 18-month-long multi-step approval process. Throughout, AGU’s and Hickok Cole Architects’ goal has been to respect the historic values of the surrounding area, and ensure public understanding of the project and its potential impacts. The project has received unanimous endorsements from Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B (ANC 2B), and unanimous approvals from the Historic Preservation Review Board and the Board of Zoning Adjustment. The organization, which has been part of the Dupont Circle neighborhood for nearly 40 years, also has strong support from the surrounding community, and the Dupont Circle Citizens Association.

AGU received the very first DOEE Clean Energy DC Award in April, 2019 to honor its commitment to sustainability through our newly renovated headquarters building. In recognition of this commitment, Washington, D.C., mayor Muriel Bowser signed the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 at AGU’s renovated building. This historic piece of legislation requires electricity in the city to come from 100% renewable sources by 2032, among other sustainable initiatives and incentives.

In addition to its sustainability goals, AGU’s main objectives were to modernize its headquarters to better connect with its community, membership, and staff. The renovation transforms the ground floor into an interactive exhibit and lounge showcasing member’s research with expanded street-level vitrine bays that invite pedestrians to peek inside. Regularly offered public tours allow visitors to explore the building and increase awareness around high-performance design.  A welcoming new lounge and shared workspace offers AGU’s visiting members a home away from home to connect with and collaborate among their peers. A flexible, state-of-the-art conference center and an expansive rooftop terrace allow AGU to host internal events, social functions for members, or educational programming open to the public.

Openings cut into existing slabs make way for a new central connecting stair, uniting staff across three working floors to promote physical activity and provide easy access to the café and other shared amenities. A new open office, supplemented with flexible huddle and conference rooms, replaces opaque perimeter rooms to maximize daylight into the building’s core. A custom mix of design strategies address both high-performance and wellness for a dynamic workplace that prioritizes the health of people, buildings, and the planet.

Serving as wayfinding, custom graphics and acrylic fins incorporate earth and space science imagery in homage to AGU member’s research. Each working floor represents a different layer of the earth’s core, culminating in a geometric space-inspired acoustic ceiling. Externally, sidewalk graphics depict a realistic to-scale solar system, engaging with pedestrians and announcing the building’s presence.

Below is a video produced by Saint-Gobain North America and SageGlass where Janice Lachance, Executive Vice President for Strategic Leadership and Global Outreach for AGU, Chris McEntee, Executive Director and CEO of AGU, and Hickok Cole’s Guilherme Almeida, Project Designer for AGU discuss AGU’s journey to NetZero and the use of SageGlass products in the renovation.