If you’ve traveled up and down Florida Avenue near Dupont Circle, you’ve probably noticed the big triangular shaped building that resembles a ship. That building serves as the headquarters for the American Geophysical Union (AGU), an international nonprofit scientific association with 60,000 members in 137 countries. After constructing its building in 1993, AGU evaluated the building a few years back and, as a result, embarked on a process that won the 1st Clean Energy D.C. Award in 2019 from the Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE).
AGU undertook a major renovation to become D.C.’s first net zero energy commercial renovation. Net zero energy means the total amount of energy used yearly by a building is equal to or less than the amount of energy created onsite using innovative technologies and renewable power generation. To achieve net zero energy, AGU’s design focused on four key engineering principles – reduction, reclamation, absorption, and generation.
Net Zero Building Operations Specialist Cristine Gibney began working as an intern at AGU in the summer of 2018. She was first introduced to the AGU renovation project while pursuing her Master’s in Sustainable Design at The Catholic University of America. “I believe that good design can make humans, buildings, and the planet work together,” says Gibney. She praises Chris McEntee, AGU’s Executive Director and CEO with having a positive, hopeful, and actionable message and considers herself fortunate to be able to work on both the construction and operational sides of the building.
Gibney was previously an Army Strategist. She credits the Army with providing her experience with developing systems and leveraging synergies. When asked about her biggest lesson learned in the process, Gibney talks about the importance of building operations and facility management and institutional groups supporting the AGU’s efforts. “People talk about designing a net zero energy building, but very few people build them and operate them,” says Gibney. “Operating a high-performance building requires a team effort. I’m proud of AGU’s commitment to sustainability and embarking on this project.”
AGU’s endeavor is enhanced by the D.C. government initiatives as well as technical expertise from other organizations including, ASHRAE, IFMA, USGBC and the DCSEU. “The DCSEU is an amazing resource and has helped in numerous ways,” says Gibney. “The most valuable service is having someone to call when I have questions about sustainability.” Through this process Gibney has reached out to Account Manager, Giuliana Kunkel, who has assisted in pointing her in the right direction for a renewable energy service provider.
AGU’s commitment in pursuing net zero has always been to identify and share best practices for commercial buildings that want to reduce their carbon and environmental footprint. To learn more about the building and AGU, visit here.