AGU Board of Directors Approves Groundbreaking Building Renovation to Start in Early 2017

Today, I am delighted to announce that our project team has reached the final stage and approval for the renovation of AGU’s headquarters building. This weekend, after a multiyear process, the project received final approval from AGU’s Board of Directors and is now ready to begin construction in March 2017.

As I have shared previously, it had become clear to us that our aging building and infrastructure was reaching the end of its useful life, and that a major renovation was inevitable. Last fall, we shared our vision to lead by example in designing a welcoming and collaborative space for our members and the D.C. community that could build understanding of the importance and impact of Earth and space science and showcase real-world scientific advancement through innovative sustainable technology. In addition, we shared our goal to be the first in the District of Columbia to renovate an existing commercial building to achieve net zero goals, serving as an example to encourage others to incorporate similar approaches and designs into new and existing facilities throughout the city.

Updated rendering of AGU headquarters building

Rendering of the approved renovation of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) headquarters.

From the start of the planning process, one of the most important aspects has been the support from you – our members. When we embarked on this journey we realized we had a unique opportunity to benefit our members by advancing the visibility of AGU and the Earth and space sciences to an influential global audience, and bringing our message of science’s power to benefit humanity to public and key influencers alike. Taking advantage of this opportunity has remained paramount throughout the design and planning process, driving our plans for collaborative design features, like a state-of-the-art conference space, to make the renovated headquarters every members’ home-away-from-home while they are visiting the nation’s capital. The project team also endeavored to design an environment that provides educational spaces and platforms for collaboration; where members can meet, convene, present, and discuss; and to create a destination that welcomes the public through engaging educational exhibits.

With the same rigorous research and planning approach that was undertaken by our project team, the Finance and Investment Committee investigated a number of financing methods and options. One of AGU’s primary objectives from the beginning was to balance the costs associated with the renovation with the benefits it will provide to our members and the community. The total cost of the recommended approach for the renovation project approved by the Board – $41,714,102 – will allow for significant offsetting incremental revenues from leasing office space, conference center rental, grants and government credits/subsidies, and saved energy costs.

This final authorization represents a significant milestone capping off a year-and-a-half-long approval process. You will remember from previous posts that our project team appeared in front of various agencies and regulatory bodies, like the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) and the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) where we received special relief necessary to achieving our project goals. We also have strong support from our neighbors with unanimous endorsements from the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B (ANC 2B), as well as the Dupont Circle Citizen’s Association. We recently held our second community meeting to present the final designs and answer questions related to the upcoming construction impacts on the surrounding neighborhood, and AGU remains committed to communicating and engaging with our neighbors throughout the construction process.

As we prepare to celebrate the New Year, we are looking forward to getting the renovation underway. Contractors will begin interior and exterior preparations in the next few weeks; AGU staff will be relocating to a new temporary home in the heart of downtown D.C. in February; and construction is scheduled to begin in early March. AGU is as committed as ever to sharing all the lessons learned throughout the process, how we will achieve net zero, the groundbreaking technology that could change building systems and how the building will benefit our members. We are excited to welcome you to our new “home” in 2018 in time for AGU’s Fall Meeting, an event that will bring more than 20,000 Earth and space scientists to the nation’s capital in December. I can’t think of a better way to kick-off AGU’s centennial celebration, which will begin in 2019.

Be sure to check back in with us here as we continue to share the progress we are making toward achieving these revolutionary goals.

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