Taking the 'LEED'

Features - Feature

The renovation of the FDA’s headquarters goes beyond its initial plan to achieve LEED Gold Certification.

October 13, 2010
Kristin Smith

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is receiving attention in an area other than the approval of a pioneering new drug. Its $1.4-billion headquarters consolidation project has already received recognition from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for building renovations and is on target to receive more accolades as phases of the project are completed.

The FDA Headquarters Consolidation Project includes the renovation of three historic buildings and the construction of 17 new buildings, totaling 5.3 million square feet of new laboratories and offices.

The major consolidation project has involved relocating an estimated 8,900 employees to the 130-acre historic site of the Naval Surface Warfare Center located in the White Oak section of Silver Spring, Md. The FDA had previously been operating in 40 buildings in 18 separate locations scattered throughout the Washington, D.C. metro area. The project also includes new site utilities and infrastructure, more than 2.5 miles of roads and two new bridges.

Most of the new construction and renovations are being built to the USGBC’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver or Gold standards, including the former Naval Ordinance Building. The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), which is overseeing the project, recently achieved LEED Gold certification for restoration and renovation of the historic landmark, and the use of recycled materials helped make that possible.

The former Naval Ordinance Building, which is now Building 1 at the FDA headquarters, has been transformed into the Office of the Commissioner for the FDA and serves as the gateway to the campus.

Tishman Construction Corp. of Maryland completely gutted the four-story, 102,000-square-foot-building. According to a press release issued by Tishman, workers stripped everything to structural steel.

The restoration brought exterior façades, the historic lobby and conference rooms back to their former condition,

The historic lobby of the Naval Ordinance building during renovations.

according to Tishman. In addition, the building, originally built in 1946, was upgraded to reflect current standards and to meet the sustainability goals of the GSA and FDA.

Initial design plans for Building 1 met LEED Silver standards, but those involved on the project figured out ways the project could earn even more LEED credits. Tishman says this was accomplished through collaboration between the GSA, the FDA, the LEED consultant, the construction management team and the architect, KlingStubbins.

KlingStubbins, based in Philadelphia, has announced that Building 1 is the first renovation project in the GSA National Capital Region to achieve the Gold designation.

“We are indeed thrilled to win LEED Gold certification for this project, and we appreciate all the effort put forth by our consultants and our construction management team,” says Shapour Ebadi, project executive for the GSA. “Their dedication made this achievement possible.”

Ebadi pointed to what he calls the innovative and effective ways in which Tishman achieved more LEED points on the project through its methods of purchasing, construction and documentation that were performed to LEED Gold standards.

Specifically, LEED credits were obtained for the use of increased recycled content. Workers were able to use excavation material for infill, diverting it from landfills. They also reused the existing structural frame and brick/limestone veneer. In addition, Tishman says it used nearly 100-percent Forest Service Certified, easily-renewable materials.

Other steps that earned LEED points at no additional cost to the project were

  • Using low-volatile organic compound (VOC) paints, coatings, carpets and adhesives;
  • Utilizing a highly reflective roof to reduce heat-island affect;
  • Installing light that reduces light pollution;
  • Abating of asbestos and lead paint according to LEED guidelines;
  • Using materials from within a 500-radius of the project; and
  • Purchasing green power supplied by power companies that use renewable materials.

Workers discovered that the window glazing and caulk on hundreds of windows contained asbestos. According to Tishman, remediating the asbestos and keeping the windows would have exhausted the budget. After a year of negotiating an alternative with all of the agencies involved, the windows were replaced with similar windows.

The design team contacted the original window maker, Hope’s Windows Inc., which is still in business. The company developed several designs that mimicked the existing windows. According to Tishman, once they were approved by historic preservation entities, 276 windows were replaced on the structure.

Building 1 is not the only building on the campus that has been recognized by the USGBC. In May, KlingStubbins also announced that the Central Shared Use building on the campus earned 34 LEED credit points, resulting in LEED Silver Certification. The firm says the building was designed as a showcase for sustainable design, including using what it calls “environmentally preferable materials” made up of 12 percent with recycled content and 28 percent with regional materials.

The entire campus is expected to be completed in 2012. As of late summer 2010, 11 buildings have been completed and are occupied, two are currently under construction and several others are in the planning, programming and design phases.