Tag Archives: net zero


WASHINGTON, DC – Hickok Cole’s Joel Onorato, Jason Wright, Holly Lennihan, and Guil Almeida were selected to participate in this year’s AIA DesignDC Conference in Washington, DC from September 16 through September 18, 2019. The premier regional conference theme, Charged Up, will focus on the unique challenges facing architects, interior designers, engineers, contractors and developers in the DC metro area with a range of panels covering emerging technologies, trends, and the intersection of sustainability and design.

Joel, Jason and Holly will speak on various panels throughout the conference on subjects including the circular economy, DC building code changes, sustainable retrofitting and net zero energy. Guil will lead a guided tour of the American Geophysical Union, Washington, DC’s first commercial office building to achieve net-zero energy. 

Is the Building World Ready for the Circular Economy?

Joel Onorato, Architect and Structural Engineer

Sept. 16, 2019 at 8:30-10:00 am
Materials require large amounts of energy and finite resources during production but normally end up in landfills after demolition. This presentation will cover why it is necessary to transition to the Circular Economy where waste, material consumption and environmental impact are minimized by keeping products and materials in use in order to drastically reduce this impact.

Upcoming Changes to the DC Building Code

Jason Wright, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Associate Principal

Sept. 16, 2019 at 10:15-11:45 am
In response to the 2018 published Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the 2017 District of Columbia Construction Codes, this discussion will focus on many of the key code changes that will impact design and construction in the District, including an overview of the 2017 DC Construction Code proposed changes and include a Q+A session. Jason joins Chris Campbell, PE from Arup on the panel.

Retrofitting Existing Buildings – DC’s Sustainability Guide for Existing and Historic Properties

Holly Lennihan, LEED AP, Director of Sustainable Design

Sept. 17, 2019 at 8:45-10:15 am
This session will provide an overview of the “Sustainability Guide for Existing and Historic Properties” intended to promote and facilitate green retrofits of existing older buildings in a manner that will improve their performance and energy-efficiency while also respecting their character. Holly joins Laura Huges from EHT Traceries, Sarah Vonesh, LEED and Melanie De Cola LEED on the panel.

Coming Up: Another Way of Getting to Net Zero

Holly Lennihan, LEED AP, Director of Sustainable Design

Sept. 17, 2019 at 2:15-3:45 pm
This panel of designers and ecologist will discuss the ecology of the District, the practices that contribute to the health of our habitat, how positive impact can be measured and case studies that illustrate methods for creating health urban habitats. Holly joins Joe Chambers, ASLA from Landscape Architecture Bureau, Damien Ossi from Department of Energy and the Environment and Dr. Robert McDonald from The Nature Conservancy on the panel.

Tour: The American Geophysical Union

Guil Almeida, AIA, LEED AP, Senior Associate and Project Designer

Sept. 18, 2019 at 10:00 am-12:00 pm
During this session, participants will tour and learn about The American Geophysical Union, the first-ever net zero energy renovation of an existing commercial building in the District. The tour will highlight the unique systems installed in the building and the innovative blend of architecture and engineering.

Media Contact:
Ellie Ruggeri

VOX–The Green New Deal aims to get buildings off fossil fuels. These 6 places have already started. The nation’s capitol has taken some incredibly ambitious steps on climate change. Last December, it passed some of the strongest clean energy requirements in the country.

GREATER GREATER WASHINGTON–DC Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the most ambitious clean energy law in the nation on Friday. It requires all of DC’s electricity to come from renewable sources like wind and solar by 2032, 13 years earlier than California and Hawaii have committed to transition to 100% green electricity.

Waste not, want not: A look inside DC’s first municipal heat exchange system

Construction at the net zero renovation of American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) headquarters is getting really exciting – assuming, like us, you now find work on a 125-year old sewer line to be the pinnacle of your interests. Despite the images (and smells) the word “sewer” brings to mind, it turns out we’re not the only ones interested in the complex systems running below our busy streets. NBC Washington recently published a story on the ways DC Water is using innovation and inventions to lower customers’ bills, featuring the municipal heat exchange system currently being implemented at AGU. The system is the first of its kind in the US, using utility access to “use the sewer’s natural heat and lower heating and cooling costs.”

The investigation shares DC Water’s hopes that “other commercial customers will be interested in buying access to the sewer system to utilize [the new] technology,” and we have to admit that we’re completely on board. Despite the upfront investment required to make access possible, implementing municipal heat exchange systems throughout the District would help reduce the amount of energy used by buildings in the nation’s capital, and help reduce energy costs for building owners.

Sound too good to be true? Fortunately for us, and your future energy bill, it’s not. And in the coming years, AGU will serve as an example of the system’s potential impact, tracking and sharing energy data openly for all to see and learn from. In the meantime, we’ll get you started by covering the basics.

How does it work?
AGU’s updated building systems will tap into the 1890s-era sewer line, diverting wastewater to a settling tank in a ‘wet well’ located just outside of their building at the intersection of Florida and 20th Streets NW. The debris-less water will then be circulated into a sewer heat exchange system that will live in the building’s underground garage. This is where the radiant fluid for the building will be pre-heated or cooled before being circulated throughout the building. Fear not, it is a closed loop system. The murky water will be returned back to the sewer.

Using this strategy, AGU is able to maximize the efficiency of their building’s mechanical systems. So much so that there will be periods during the year where the building will operate in a ‘free cooling‘ mode and the building’s chiller will not be needed to provide supplemental cooling.

Why is this important?
All of this helps reduce AGU’s energy consumption, maximizes the resources on site, and helps the mission-driven organization reach its goal of a net zero energy headquarters.

Fun fact
Using the bathroom uphill from Florida Avenue will help cool the building – AGU thanks you in advance for your support.

Below are some photos of the sewer, located about 30’ below grade in Dupont Circle. All of those pipes and pumps are to re-route the um, flow, while work is underway.

While the first system of its kind to be implemented in the US, the municipal heat exchange is not the only “first” for this project. When complete, AGU will become the first net zero commercial renovation in the nation’s capital.

Want to learn more? Check out this video featuring AGU team member and Managing Principal for Interface Engineering, Roger Frechette. You can find more videos like this, and stay up to date on the latest construction updates from this ground breaking project, by visiting Building AGU.

What do an average looking water fountain, a giant hole in the ground, and a truck full of what used to be poop all have in common?