AGU Building Team at BZA Hearing

AGU Receives City Zoning Approval to Move Forward with Final Project Planning Stages


When AGU undertook the project to renovate our headquarters building nearly two years ago we had three goals in mind to ensure that the project would provide the highest level of benefit to our members: 1) to enhance visibility of and create a destination attraction for Earth and space science; 2) to advance the adoption of science-based solutions; and 3) to provide state-of-the-art meeting and conference space and increase productivity and collaboration across AGU’s members, staff, and programs. As I told you in my previous post, last month we received a unanimous formal approval from the city’s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) – a significant milestone in our multi-step approval process for the renovation. Next up, was our request to the city’s Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) to receive special relief from strict compliance with D.C. zoning regulations.

AGU building team presents at the BZA hearing on July 19, 2016.

I’m excited to share with you that today, the BZA approved our exemption requests; this marks another leap forward in bringing this important project, and all that it means for AGU’s members, our science, our community, and the public that we serve.

We had to seek zoning exemptions for two primary reasons. The first was because regulations required certain design characteristics that, along with the unique nature of the surrounding area, would have reduced the amount of light the building received and the required amount of solar roof array, hindering the possibility of achieving our one goal of net zero energy. AGU and our team of architects and engineers worked hard to design an innovative and environmentally-sensitive solution that will not cause visibility or blocking issues, and that will also not impact the movement of air around adjacent buildings, allowing the building to remain compatible with the needs and character of the neighborhood, as well as with AGU’s goals of providing benefit to our members and environmental stewardship.

Updated rendering of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) headquarters.

The second reason was because the project team had proposed renovations that include locating a cistern in the building to provide for rainwater collection for reuse, and a sewer heat exchange, both of which require an exemption because they reduce the number of parking spaces in the building’s garage.

We are in a really exciting stage of the project as we continue to finalize our designs, plan for construction and seek out formal approval from the Board. What makes it even more is exciting is sharing our progress with you, so I want to take the time to remind you about our newly launched website for the project: We’re committed to sharing the knowledge gained throughout this process: design schematics; information about the specific technologies, including those that will allow more effective collaboration with our members and scientists around the world; ways AGU will use the space to convene meetings and support our members when they visit the nation’s capital; as well as plans for exhibits designed to educate the public about Earth and space science. I hope that you’ll look at the site and share your thoughts with us about this truly groundbreaking project. Our members’ involvement and collaboration is key to all that AGU does, and we look forward to continuing to update you on our progress.

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