AIA redesign credit EHDD 2

The American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) has unveiled plans for a grand redesign of its national headquarters with sustainability, equity, and collaboration at the forefront. 

Schematic designs for a revamp of the 1970s brutalist building in Washington DC were unveiled last week with San Francisco-based architecture firm EHDD at the helm. 

The redesign will update inefficient systems, reduce energy consumption, and incorporate energy saving measures, with changes expected to save around 58 per cent in energy usage based on pre-pandemic levels.

A high-performance building envelope will be added to the building, with window shading, double paned glass, and a highly insulated roof carrying solar panels. Both gas-fired boilers will be replaced by seven air source electric heat pumps on the roof. 

The building is targeting LEED Platinum and WELL Platinum status, and will meet the energy use targets set by AIA’s 2030 Commitment.

“AIA’s headquarters should serve as an expression of the value architects provide and align with the values we uphold as a profession,” AIA president Dan Hart said in a written statement. 

The American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) schematic designs from EHDD. Image credit: AIA/EHDD

“We have a responsibility to redesign this iconic building to the highest standards in sustainability, resilience, and equity. By demonstrating the powerful role design can play in improving our communities, we can show how to take the action that is needed to move the needle on climate action and to make the built environment healthier and safer for future generations. 

“In order to effectively advocate for these changes, we must start by taking action ourselves.”

Historic building needs more than a fresh coat of paint

The brutalist building, located at 1735 New York Avenue in Washington DC, has been occupied by the AIA since 1973 and has not undergone any major changes since then. 

Most of the building services, including two gas-fired boilers, are original, and the building has minimal insulation and single paned windows. 

This original design also inhibits business practices, the AIA says, as there are no areas for collaboration. 

“Given the current state of our headquarters, we can’t afford not to make this critical investment in the future of our organisation and the profession,” said executive vice president and chief executive officer Lakisha Ann Woods. 

“We will significantly reduce our carbon footprint and operational costs while also ensuring we have the physical space capabilities to meet our future needs.”

Equitable spaces and design process

As part of the design process, AIA engaged six students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the US in an internship program to help envision the workplace of the future.

The interior design focuses on making executive areas more accessible and creating spaces where leaders can convene in a visible and transparent manner. Innovation, collaboration and community are key features.

Rebecca Sharkey of the EHDD who led the redesign said that the process involved engaging with “a wide range of stakeholder groups, including future architects”.

“The new design imagines a holistic new vision that will be welcoming, inspiring, and engaging; a bold new symbol of the AIA’s values,” she said. 

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