AIA headquarters renewal aims to model sustainability, equity, and innovation

AIA headquarters

The leadership of architects is critical in demonstrating the power of design to address society’s most pressing challenges, from climate action to racial and social justice to the pandemic. That principle is the driving force as AIA embarks on a once-in-a-generation project to renovate its Washington, D.C., headquarters.

“The AIA Headquarters renovation will dramatically transform the AIA’s home for its members, staff and visitors,” said AIA EVP/Chief Executive Officer Robert Ivy, FAIA. “The goal is for this once-in-a-generation project to serve as a model of stewardship and sustainability for the public and the profession. We intend to create a flexible, equitable, inclusive, and collaborative workplace that embodies the AIA’s 21st century mission and values.”

Following the Framework for Design Excellence, which represents the defining principles of excellent design in the 21st century, the restoration of the 50-year-old building will update antiquated systems, reduce energy consumption, and incorporate cost-effective energy efficiencies – all while modeling design solutions to create an equitable, inspiring, innovative, post-COVID workplace and gathering place for AIA employees, members, and the community.

The transformed Headquarters will achieve the energy use targets set by the 2030 Commitment with major updates to building systems. AIA will take additional steps to reduce the building’s carbon footprint, in part by taking advantage of offsite renewable energy options.

After a qualifications-based selection process, the Board of Directors has selected San Francisco-based architecture firm EHDD to lead the approximately four-year project.

EHDD’s 74-year history is steeped in creating new and revitalized projects with deep expertise in renovation and expansions.

AIA also selected Hood Design Studio, Hartman-Cox Architects, and Point Energy Innovations to consult EHDD on specific aspects of the project, and Turner Construction for construction management.

AIA is offering six internships during the design phase to students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The students are charged with helping to envision a post-COVID workplace of the future.

“The students will be engaged with the architects working on the project throughout the design phase, providing essential insights to the renovation design,” said Peter Exley, FAIA, 2021 President of the AIA. “We’re grateful to have the next generation of architects involved with this project.”  

Exley added, “AIA is making this virtual internship program an example for other firms to emulate. Our goal is to improve the diversity of the profession through increased engagement, broader network support, and access to employment opportunities for future architecture graduates.”

The headquarters for The American Institute of Architects has existed at the same location for over 120 years. The AIA’s first home was in the other original building on the site, the Colonel John Tayloe III House. It dates back to 1799 and is now a National Historic Landmark, known as the Octagon. The AIA established its headquarters here in 1899 and remained there until the current headquarters was built in 1973. Though no renovation work is planned for the Octagon at this time, EHDD architects working on the AIA headquarters are committed to honoring the legacy of this historic landmark.

Originally designed by the Architects’ Collaborative through a widely known competition, the AIA Headquarters is famous for its powerful Brutalist presence, but those who have spent meaningful time in the building know that behind those well-known architectural features lies a half-century old HVAC system, plumbing, and single-pane windows. An inspection for the renovation revealed that the exterior walls lacked insulation, further contributing to its energy inefficiencies.

Extremely low interest rates make it an attractive time to move forward with the renovation. Beyond financial considerations, the renovation is an opportunity to create a space that reflects the association’s values and policy priorities in a way the current space does not.

Over the last five years, AIA has doubled down on its values, positioning itself as a vocal advocate for addressing climate action and equity in the built environment. The AIA headquarters is a symbol for the kind of equitable, sustainable, and resilient future for which architects are leading the way.

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AIA headquarters

AIA

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