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Perkins+Will-Designed Summit Foundation Headquarters Achieves First Living Building Challenge Certification in Washington, D.C

Perkins+Will announced today that the headquarters of the Summit Foundation, a private family foundation focused on grant-making in ocean conservation, gender equity, and sustainable cities, has earned Living Building Challenge™ (LBC) Petal Certification from the International Living Future Institute. The certification is the most advanced measurement of sustainability in the built environment and recognizes projects in performance categories called Petals. The Summit Foundation achieved certification in the categories of Place, Materials, Equity, and Beauty. It is the first project in the D.C. area to earn the distinction.

“The success of the Summit Foundation project is a direct result of the design team’s and the client’s shared vision of sustainability and elegance,” says Lisa Weeks, principal at Perkins+Will. “Our collaboration inspired us to create a groundbreaking, healthy workplace with a sophisticated design that has a positive impact on both our industry and the environment.”

Innovation in Material Health and Transparency

Perkins+Will’s mission was to design the Summit Foundation’s offices to be as beautiful, functional, and healthy as possible. To that end, designers evaluated every permanently installed product to ensure compliance with the LBC “Red List,” a compilation of building materials containing chemicals known to be harmful to humans and/or the environment, and whose use in a LBC project is therefore forbidden. To accomplish this, the team meticulously evaluated every ingredient in every product specified, so that even an ingredient comprising just .01 percent of a product’s weight and volume was documented.

When specified products did not have ingredient disclosures or other product information, Perkins+Will researched and advocated for transparency in product manufacturing. The design team worked directly with several major furniture manufacturers, three of which accelerated factory upgrades to accommodate LBC requirements for material ingredient reporting and healthier products.

“Perkins+Will has been an advocate for material health and transparency for many years,” says Rebecca Holt, senior sustainable building advisor at Perkins+Will. “The Summit Foundation is the perfect example of a project that embodies health, well-being, sustainability, high-performance, beauty, and quality.”

Employing a Low Carbon Approach

In addition to innovation in material health and transparency, reducing the carbon footprint of the project was a top priority for the design team.

As such, the team selected products—including ducts, pipes, gypsum board, ceiling tiles, furniture, and carpet—based on their high recycled content. Products made with recycled content are responsible for fewer carbon emissions than products made with raw materials because there is less raw material extraction and less energy used in manufacturing. Additionally, the use of reclaimed wood and materials produced with renewable energy reduced the project’s carbon footprint. For example, the project’s carpet was manufactured by Interface at a plant where 84 percent of the energy is generated from renewable sources. Finally, 40 percent of the project’s building materials, by cost—double the amount required by LBC—were sourced within 500 km of the project site, significantly reducing carbon emissions from transportation. In addition, 95 percent, or 60 tons, of the waste generated during construction was diverted from landfill and recycled.

"We wanted to prove that beautiful design and best-in-class practices of sustainability are not contradictory,” says Lex Sant, vice president and treasurer at the Summit Foundation. “And we’ve done that. We’re proud to occupy this space, and grateful to the amazing team that made it possible.”

Design Inspiration: The Look and Feel

The project includes a mixture of private and open office workspace, as well as a reception area, a lounge/kitchen, two conference rooms, and a mail/copy room. A large portion of the office space is dedicated to social gathering and interaction. For example, the lounge area adjacent to the reception area offers comfortable seating booths where employees can have lunch or take a coffee break, while the adjacent large kitchen invites employees to intermingle and engage with each other. The main conference room includes a pair of sliding wood-framed glass wall panels that transform the space from a boardroom to an open communal area for impromptu staff gatherings. As the office was designed with human comfort in mind, all workstations include sit-stand desks and task lights that allow users to choose their own color temperature and intensity. A digital display screen in the lobby shares sustainable design information with employees and visitors, teaching them about the project’s design and presenting real time energy consumption data.

Access to daylight and views to the outdoors were important design objectives. Daylight simulations informed the project’s layout, material selection, and window locations. As a result, the design team strategically placed high-traffic, high-use spaces in areas that receive the most daylight, and selected transparent office partitions ensuring that daylight penetrates deep into the workplace’s core. Full-height glass walls between the offices allow daylight to reach into the adjacent hallway while maintaining high acoustic performance. Intricate textures, locally sourced natural materials such as wood and stone, and a color palette of whites, beiges, and browns create a warm, light-filled, calming space in an urban setting.

“This project exemplifies what can happen when beauty, health, and wellness are the drivers of design,” says Amanda Sturgeon, CEO of the International Living Future Institute. “We are thrilled that the Living Building Challenge has been an inspiration for this project—a first for the region, and hope there are many more to come.”

The Summit Foundation’s new headquarters opened last year. It is one of 22 Living Building Challenge Petal-Certified projects. The other in the Perkins+Will global portfolio is the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia, which earned the distinction in May 2016.

Summit Foundation Team Members:
Client: Lex Sant, Summit Foundation
Architect: Perkins+Will
Contractor: rand*
MEP Engineer: Integral Group
Sustainability and Certification Consultant: Stok
Photographer: Eric Laignel

For more information, contact media@perkinswill.com.