Sustainable Design in NRDC's Washington, D.C. Office

Guest post written by Emily Vidovich

To learn about design features that promote sustainability, resilience, and occupant health, join us on Tuesday, July 14th at 2 PM EST for a virtual open house at our newly renovated Washington, D.C. office! To receive further details, RSVP by emailing sustainability@nrdc.org.

This third floor Washington, D.C. renovation project was designed by Studio Gang Architects in collaboration with GHT Limited, rand* Construction Corporation, and 1788 Holdings. The goal of the project was to achieve Living Building Challenge (LBC) 3.1 Petal Certification for Materials, Place, and Beauty. The certification program, created by the non-profit International Living Future Institute, takes a holistic approach to designing and constructing in a way that improves our world.

Materials Petal

If the product was used in the renovation, the manufacturer was required to disclose all ingredients present. This was done to ensure the ingredients were Red List free and/or responsibly sourced. The Red List represents the materials, chemicals, and elements known to pose serious risks to human health and the environment. By adhering to this standard, we ensured that no hazardous or toxic chemicals were used in the construction process or finished space. Additionally, all new wood products used were Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. No matter what material the product was, reducing the embodied carbon was prioritized through seeking out local manufacturers, limiting carbon-intensive materials, and increasing use of carbon sequestering, salvaged, and high-recycled content materials. 

Washington, D.C. Office Corridor

Place Petal

Our pursuit of the Place Petal acknowledged that a renovation project still has an environmental impact, even though it does not directly reduce the existing natural landscape. To counterbalance any negative externalities due to land development, NRDC advocated for the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act. This land protection became law while the renovation of our Washington, D.C. office was taking place, protecting 663,000 thousand acres in perpetuity.

Beauty Petal

The Beauty Petal was manifested in our renovation through widespread incorporation of biophilic design elements, which enhance the human-nature connection and promote wellbeing. The elements include a partially open floor plan that welcomes natural light into the space, honeycomb wall tiles featuring live moss, and a floor to ceiling living wall in the kitchen that features native plants. Throughout the office, there are also small raindrop-shaped tables surrounded by dark blue chairs that evoke calming images of water, and a sound masking system that emits a continuous white noise that promotes focus and collaboration.

Washington, D.C. Office Wall Tiles

The green building principles creates a beautiful space that fosters the health of people and the planet, and serves as an inspiration to others to prioritize sustainability in the built environment and beyond. Additional information on the NRDC Washington, D.C. renovation project, including a detailed material list and design recommendations, is available upon request.

About the Authors

Maria McCain

Senior Sustainability Coordinator, Facilities

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