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VOLUME 23 Issue Issue 31

A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT

Dear Friends, Partners, and Colleagues, “The urban built environment is responsible for 75% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions: buildings alone account for 39%,” according to the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Reducing these emissions is pivotal to addressing the growing climate crisis. That’s why EwingCole signed on to the Architecture2030 Challenge. It’s a commitment by 400 architecture firms to bring fuel consumption of all buildings to carbon neutral by 2030; a colossal undertaking. In this issue of Momentum, we look at the history of EwingCole’s commitment to sustainable design, how we created our most sustainable building to date, and what our team is doing today in the hopes of leaving a positive impact on future generations. Please enjoy and share this issue of Momentum. Sincerely,

Robert A. McConnell, AIA President

CONTENTS

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CLASSIC Perfect Blend

10.

CONTEMPORARY Breaking the Mold

16.

CONTINUING Thrive@EC

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Building 33



Building 33


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hen Howard Skoke, principal, joined EwingCole in 1984, this was a “pretty unusual methodology,” he says. Through the decades, though, that seamless melding has wound a thread that's led directly to the firm’s commitment to sustainable design. “When you think about it,” Skoke says, “it’s an approach that emphasizes a respect for the holistic picture and its impact on the world.” Long before concepts like smart buildings, adaptive reuse, and green roofs became part of the standard construction and development lexicon, EwingCole’s architects honed their natural appreciation for open space and historicity. Its engineers tapped into their innate understanding of energy consumption and passive climate control. “Pretty early on, we learned that we could do a building that fit beautifully into a campus,” says Skoke. “So we began thinking about bigger problems, like, what could we do to address urban sprawl, acres of asphalt parking lots, and abandoned or under-used structures?” That path recently reached its culmination with the firm’s first site net-zero building (2018, for United Therapeutics, see pg. 10), which produces as much or more energy than it consumes. It began, though, in the mid-nineties with a commission from

Henry Hood Center for Health Research

the U.S. government. The renovation of Building 33 at the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard preserved a Civil War-era gun manufacturing facility while adaptively reusing it to fashion 156,000-square-feet of office space. Had the LEED rating system been in place at the time, a few modifications to its specifications would have garnered the project Silver certification. Acting as a series of bridges between the ten miles and two decades

in upstate New York, for example, also merged historic renovation and energy savings while introducing a landscape component. The refashioning of this 85-year-old fraternity house into a co-ed residence hall achieved LEED Silver, New York state’s first such historical building to be retrofitted to such a standard. “In moving to a different building type, we asked ‘can even a small college dorm building be green?’,” says Skoke. “And the answer was yes. Engineering options started to drive the

“FOR EWINGCOLE, THIS MARKED THE FIRST PROJECT WHERE THE ARCHITECTURE AND SITE DESIGN BECAME A STATEMENT FOR WHAT A SUSTAINABLE BUILDING COULD LOOK LIKE, IT BROKE THE MOLD OF THE TYPICAL RECTANGULAR BUILDING.” - Howard Skoke, Principal, EwingCole

separating these two projects were others that offered incremental steps towards becoming more ambitious in categories like preservation, reuse, sustainable materials, tighter building envelopes, and reduced energy consumption. The 2004 renovation of Skenandoa House for Hamilton College

Skenandoa House

project while challenging the architects to explore different design solutions.” A few years later, the Henry Hood Center for Health Research also received Silver certification, the first building on the Geisinger campus in central Pennsylvania to do so.


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SCA Americas


Smithsonian Environmental Research Center Mathias Lab

“For EwingCole, this marked the first project where the architecture and site design became a statement for what a sustainable building could look like,” Skoke observes. “It broke the mold of the typical rectangular building.” In tackling the corporate headquarters for SCA Americas in Philadelphia (2008), EwingCole was tasked with producing an interior design that gelled

interior spaces. “Wellness started to come in as a factor,” adds Skoke, “with a focus on indoor air quality and the introduction of an interior stair that was a central design feature and encouraged employees to walk between stories of the office.” The firm’s work on the design of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center Mathias Lab (2014) upped

“OUR FIRM HAS BECOME MORE DIVERSE AS WE’VE DRAWN FROM MORE THAN ONE SCHOOL IN EVERY DISCIPLINE, OUR CULTURE HAS ALSO CHANGED, AND WE’RE WORKING IN WAYS THAT ARE MUCH MORE HEALTHY AND HOLISTIC.” - Howard Skoke, Principal, EwingCole

with the paper manufacturer’s green values. One emphasis was on bringing daylight into the large floorplates of the Cesar Pelli-designed Cira Centre by locating workstations at the perimeter, using highly reflective ceiling and wall finishes, and incorporating glass partitions to allow daylight to penetrate

the ante yet again, with on-site solar energy production, geothermal heating and cooling, a water reclamation system and stormwater management. The design mandate for this project closely aligned with the mission of the client — which focuses on the performance and protection of

coastal ecosystems, particularly that of its own Chesapeake Bay estuary and wetlands — and so “right from the beginning, we were charged with designing toward LEED Platinum and broadcasting that the project was about building sustainably,” recalls Skoke. “For us, it was the first true example of an integrated exterior, site, and interior.” The formalized, coherent messaging that made its way into the bones of SERC found its most expansive form in EwingCole’s most sustainable building to date, the LEED Platinum, Unisphere for long-term client United Therapeutics. “The company truly embraces all of the engineering that goes into the building and conveys that throughout the building with graphics and presentations to help users and visitors understand all the building does,” says Skoke. Just as these projects have sharpened the firm’s mastery of sustainable issues and met the challenges put forth by its clients, they’ve had a direct impact on life at EwingCole. “Our firm has become more diverse as we’ve drawn from more than one school in every discipline,” Skoke observes. “Our culture has also changed, and we’re working in ways that are much more healthy and holistic.” 


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nited Therapeutics is a biotech company that develops innovative drug therapies with the core mission of saving lives. The company, founded in 1996, has built an urban headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland that stands prominently in a district of high-rise residential buildings and mid-century office buildings. When envisioning the third phase of their campus expansion, connecting their corporate mission to the building philosophy was paramount. The design of this building, named Unisphere, was informed by the organization’s belief that a company focused on saving lives must minimize its impact on the environment. As a result, Unisphere is designed to meet zero-net energy and carbon goals.

in the county and projects like this definitely fit into that view,” affirms Robert A. Kronenberg, acting deputy director of the Montgomery County, MD, Planning Department. “That plan was established in 2000, though, and this is the first net zero building we’ve

Until now, most net zero buildings — those which produce and harvest the same amount (or more) of renewable energy resources that they consume — have been set on sites out west, where space and sunshine are abundant. This one offered a dense environment that permitted none of the usual allowances, such as locating renewable re-sources elsewhere or investing in carbon offsets. One of its main goals: to demonstrate that such a building could be pulled off in such a situation. “We have a master plan for how we’d like to see land develop

seen in the county. We will be using it as a good litmus test for other projects coming in.”

⇒ with sustainability. We wanted them to help us achieve something bigger and greater that was at the fore-front of green building, something that went way beyond LEED certifications.” The result is a statement building that also acts as a gateway to UT’s campus,

“WE WANTED THEM TO HELP US ACHIEVE SOMETHING BIGGER AND GREATER THAT WAS AT THE FORE-FRONT OF GREEN BUILDING, SOMETHING THAT WENT WAY BEYOND LEED CERTIFICATIONS.” - Avi Halpert, Vice President of Corporate Real Estate, United Therapeutics

Welcome as it is, the path to getting this model up and running was strewn with obstacles. “The Unisphere was a gauntlet of sorts,” says Avi Halpert, the company’s vice president of corporate real estate. “It was one for the architects, the construction workers, the local municipality and the state. We pushed their limits to realize a passionate commitment from the company to test how far we could go

according to Halpert. “It’s sparked constant phone calls from parties interested in hearing more about what we’ve done and how we achieved it,” he says. “People are always slowing down to point out the building.” In the biotech industry, talent is extremely important, points out UT’s Thomas Kaufman. “Creating spaces that are inspiring, beautiful and physical manifestations of the company’s values is one of the main avenues that United Therapeutics uses to recruit and retain the best talent,” he says.



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From the beginning, CEO Martine Rothblatt has put a premium on corporate sustainability practices that reflect UT’s mission to save lives. For her, how the buildings go about making that happen come with musthaves —but not many restraints. “Our introduction to the project was an email from her that laid out everything in a few sentences,” recalls Jason Fierko, engineer and principal at EwingCole. “Basically, it said, we’re going to design a new building, it’s going to be in the shape of an ellipse, it’s going to have a swimming pool and a central atrium, and it’s going to be Net Zero. And that was it.” Eventually, the team developed a menu of methods to accomplish the desired goal of bringing the new building’s carbon footprint down to nil while meeting UT’s design criteria. Strategies included installing 3,000 solar or photovoltaic panels that now generate 1,175 MWH of energy each year, enough to power 100 homes; creating a quarter-mile-long concrete maze located twelve feet underground to naturally moderate temperatures; and fashioning a closed-loop, dual-circuited geo-exchange system to provide energy storage. Smart building systems automatically dim artificial lighting when it isn’t necessary or when a room is unoccupied; open and shut windows as circumstances call for ventilation or energy conservation; and send excess power back into the utility grid. Arriving at the means to realize these requirements, though, continually tested the ingenuity of the engineers at EwingCole and caused some headscratching among the designers who, according to architect and principal Jennifer Wampler, were determined to prove that “high performance and high design can co-exist, that one need not be sacrificed at the expense of the other.” The project team was more than up to the task, points out CEO, Jared Loos, who is both an architect and an engineer. “Not many design firms in the country have the deep engineering component in-house that we do,” he says. “Being a balanced firm allows us to tackle a project like this where a lot of the engineering solutions were

integral to the final design and some of the architectural solutions were essentially engineering ones. We’re uniquely positioned to take on this kind of challenge and have the results be truly integrated.” Working with the architects from the beginning, the engineers were tasked with analyzing shadows from neighboring buildings, calculating mechanical loads, and figuring out solar panel placement, all while keeping in mind the requirement that the solar arrays and the geo-exchange system (which can store excess heat from the building in the summer then extract it to warm the building in the winter) be kept on site. The latter required rewriting

“THIS BUILDING IS TAKING FUNDAMENTAL KNOWLEDGE FROM THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO AND MARRYING IT TO TODAY’S MOST CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY” - Jared Loos, CEO

municipal codes after Rothblatt pointed out that a Net Zero building would never be able to be built in the county if things didn’t change. And finding room for all the equipment necessary to house renewable resources was just one half of the battle. “Given the state of the industry and the marketplace, there’s a finite amount of power that we can generate,” Fierko points out. “The other part of the equation is minimizing the amount of energy we use. That’s where things got interesting because in that area, there are a lot of really innovative products.” Unisphere sports a high-performing envelope

that includes walls, windows, roofing that are all extra-insulated to reduce energy transmission and a glazing system that acts in a manner similar to that of tinted sunglasses. The building’s elliptical shape maximizes solar exposure to aid in natural lighting while minimizing the effect of the sun’s warming glare. Meanwhile its sevenstory atrium, another critical part of the design, not only offers generous public space but does double-duty as a workhorse in meeting the building’s sustainability goals thanks to a series of baffles that absorb heat to promote a chimney effect that circulates air into and out of the surrounding offices. An “earth labyrinth” works to pre-cool or pre-heat incoming air by bringing it to the earth’s temperature of 53-degrees Fahrenheit as it comes in contact with the maze’s concrete walls. It’s a technique that looks for inspiration to the deep underbellies of Europe’s cathedrals and castles just as many of these high-tech innovations are in effect spins on construction methods that have been used for centuries. “Before mechanical cooling, civilizations learned to use louvers and vents to allow buildings to breathe,” observes Loos. “Then once windows came along, they were operable. This building is taking fundamental knowledge from thousands of years ago and marrying it to today’s most cutting-edge technology.” Of course, Unisphere’s biggest success may be its star presence at a very visible intersection in downtown Silver Springs. For while there’s clearly a lot going on behind (and beneath and above) the scenes, many of the building’s solutions are visible to passersby. “The building is constantly behaving in different ways and someone might notice that the north facade will have all of the windows open then look completely different later in the week,” says Wampler. “Or you’ll look at the south facade and see a wall of solar panels; they’re not all hidden out of sight. These are very clear indications of how the building operates and how it meets its green energy goals. It helps put the town on the map, both from an architectural and a sustainable perspective.” 


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AFTER SPENDING THREE CONSECUTIVE INTERNSHIPS AT EWINGCOLE, ANTHONY ARNONE GRADUATED FROM DREXEL UNIVERSITY WITH A GOOD IDEA OF THE DIRECTION IN WHICH HE WANTED HIS CAREER TO TAKE HIM.


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is experiences at the firm had “synched up with my feeling of the work I wanted to do in this industry,” he says. “EwingCole is very proactive about what its buildings are leaving behind for future generations.” Since joining the firm in 2005, Arnone has obtained his credentials as a certified energy manager, so it was no surprise that he quickly raised his figurative hand when he learned about Thrive@EC, a new in-house sustainability education effort designed to more concretely organize and formalize its efforts in the field. The resulting 14-member group draws from across national offices and disciplines at the company. “When we started thinking about getting folks together on these topics in a more cohesive fashion, we also wanted to make sure to include employees who have different levels of expertise, from principals on down,” says Maria Papiez, director of sustainable design. The group is broadly concerned with helping the firm’s architects, engineers, and interior designers understand the issues and options surrounding sustainable design and how they can better communicate those goals to clients. “The idea is for everyone to get a foundational understanding of topics related to energy and materials,” Papiez explains. “We’re trying to move beyond set systems such as LEED or Fitwell. They are just frameworks; for us, it all starts with the values that we’ve determined should inherently be part of all of our designs.” As Arnone grew to understand, that value system has long been a part of EwingCole’s history. “We’ve been doing energy efficient buildings for the government and other entities

Anthony Arnone Electrical Engineer

Maria Papiez Architect, Director of Sustainable Design

since the beginning,” says Don Jones, principal. “At this point, about 25 percent, or more than 100, of our employees are LEED accredited professionals and more than 80 of our buildings certified as LEED compliant, including several that have received a platinum designation. We even have a few that are or will be Net Zero.” After all, as Jones points out, buildings are responsible for about 40 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Working to sustainably construct and operate them is, therefore, a critical tool in combating climate change and global warming. That’s the thinking behind Architecture2030, a nonprofit initiative created by the American Institute of Architects and other organizations whose standards and benchmarks have been adopted by more than 400 architecture and engineering firms nationwide, along with hundreds of other organizations. “Every year we

As part of its participation in Architecture2030, Thrive@EC created several AIA-accredited courses taught by its designers and engineers for their peers. For the Energy Literacy course, engineers Kate Mondock, Jason Fierko and Arnone have offered presentations on topics such as building performance and the changing codes governing it. For the Materials & Health course, presenters such as Papiez and Jones have discussed the nature of “healthy” materials and how to select them. The firm also implemented a few inhouse projects, including an ongoing energy audit of operations at its Raleigh office and an examination of how the Philadelphia office complies with the health and wellness matrices established by performance-based systems like WELL. Meanwhile, another Thrive@EC member, Levina Chi, an interior designer, is constantly researching viable green flooring, upholstery,

“EWINGCOLE IS VERY PROACTIVE ABOUT WHAT ITS BUILDINGS ARE LEAVING BEHIND FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS.” - Anthony Arnone, Associate

submit as many projects as we can,” says Papiez. “The current goal is 70 percent which is a pretty aggressive number, especially when it comes to some of our specific projects.” Science & Technology and Healthcare design, for example, bring distinct challenges because of the need for clean rooms — rooms which require the constant exhaustion of polluted air.

Don Jones Architect

Kate Mondock Mechanical Engineer

paint, wood, tile, furniture, and other products. “Having a library that’s readily accessible is a great help to everyone,” says Chi, who has sussed out manufacturers that are using amazing products like recycled fishing nets and plastic bottles. “They make for great stories and clients like knowing they can invest in materials that are durable, affordable, and responsible.” 

Jason Fierko Mechanical Engineer

Levina Chi Interior Designer