Press Releases October 25, 2023

USGBC Headquarters Becomes First-Ever Project to Earn Three Platinum Certifications: LEED ID+C, WELL, and TRUE

The workplace designed by Perkins&Will sets a new precedent for sustainable interior design.

The headquarters of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in Washington, D.C., designed by Perkins&Will, is the first project in the world to receive three Platinum certifications from the Green Building Certification Inc. (GBCI): LEED ID+C, WELL, and TRUE. The project is a renovation of the organization’s former space at 2101 L Street NW, a LEED Gold certified commercial building designed in the 1970s, owned by JBG Smith. Operating as both a workplace and a hub for collaboration with partners and members, the design achieved a 44% reduction of embodied carbon from baseline and saw a waste diversion rate of 94.3%. The completed space will ensure a healthy workplace through materials and design features that support mental and physical wellbeing.

“Our new headquarters is a showcase for our mission and a working demonstration of green building leadership,” says Peter Templeton, USGBC president and CEO. “USGBC wants to lead by example by creating a workspace that prioritizes health, wellness and sustainability for our staff, partners and visitors.”

Earning Platinum certifications means the project has achieved the highest levels of compliance in various environmental categories. LEED ID+C tracks carbon emissions to conserve resources, reduce operating costs, prioritize sustainable practices, and create a healthier environment in interior spaces; WELL sets performance requirements for quality in air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind; and TRUE measures zero waste performance by encouraging the adoption of sustainable resource management and waste reduction practices.

Carbon Forecasting and Circularity

Perkins&Will and the USGBC were able to achieve precedent-setting reductions in embodied carbon and life cycle emissions by employing sustainability and wellness strategies throughout the design process. Perkins&Will’s early partnership with the Building Transparency Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3) Tool allowed the firm to research and specify materials with a low embodied carbon impact.

The project team also completed a tallyCAT Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), which provided further insights into opportunities to reduce emissions in embodied, operational, and end-of-use scenarios. A free and open-access tool, tallyCAT helps design professionals make environmentally responsible decisions early, swiftly, and confidently all while working within Revit, a building information modeling (BIM) software. Perkins&Will collaborated with Building Transparency and C-Change labs to develop the software, which launched in 2022.

The USGBC’s former workspace was used as a “materials resource,” providing the design team with ample products and materials to reuse and repurpose, which helped them achieve circularity. Perkins&Will specified strategic demolition in the architectural drawings and provided notes for subcontractors on how to handle items salvaged for reuse. The general contractor, HITT Construction, ensured that all recycled material streams were handled properly, separated, and weighed. They also provided reports to meet the certification requirements. As a result of these efforts:

  • 95% of the original construction materials were reused or diverted from landfill, including ceiling tiles, ceiling grid, drywall, glass panels, hardware, millwork, and terrazzo flooring.
  • 60% of furniture and supplies were reused. To further avoid landfill, the USGBC offered furniture to staff, donated items, and sold items at auction.
  • Multiple offices were kept in place and intact, reducing demolition waste.

“In our interiors practice, it is critical that we design projects with circularity front of mind; it must be included in our thinking from the very beginning,” says Ken Wilson, who led the design of the space and is interior design director of Perkins&Will’s Washington, D.C. studio. “We should always harvest quality materials from previous buildouts and consider how any new materials we specify can be repurposed in the future. Our innovative approaches to circularity are critical to Perkins&Will’s carbon reduction goals.”

These goals and values are evident in the firm’s own workplace in Washington, D.C., which holds certifications in LEED, WELL, Fitwel, and the Living Building Challenge, and meets the AIA’s 2030 Challenge for energy and water reduction.

Timeless Design

The design of the USGBC’s prior office, completed in 2009, was also led by Wilson and Rodrigo Letonja, Perkins&Will project manager, while at Wilson’s former firm, Envision Design, which merged with Perkins&Will in 2012. The standard life cycle of a commercial interiors project ranges from 5-10 years, traditionally contributing to a high end-of-use carbon impact when spaces inevitably need to be renovated for new tenants or the changing needs of current leaseholders. A new long-term lease, as encouraged by the LEED rating system, together with a decision to stay in place, allowed the USGBC to reuse 80% of the existing materials within the staff space, including walls, ceilings, and MEP (Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing) infrastructure. Existing furniture was repurposed, with modifications to worksurfaces for sit-to-stand functionality.

In addition to the circularity of materials, Perkins&Will further reduced the new USGBC headquarters’ environmental impact by prioritizing timeless design and selecting new materials and vendors with aligned climate goals. Just as classic, modern furniture from the previous space found a home in the new one, the design team selected new furniture and materials that won’t go out of style as trends change. Some examples of healthy new materials include carbon-neutral carpet; recycled ceramic wall tiles; Greenguard Gold certified felt wallcoverings; and a 100% recyclable, regionally manufactured upholstered wall system.

The project has received multiple design awards and citations to date including the 2023 ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) National FOCUS Wellness Large Firm Award; a Juror’s Citation at the 2023 AIA (American Institute of Architects) D.C. Chapter Design Award in the Design for Resources category; a finalist placement in the 2023 IIDA (International Interior Design Association) Mid-Atlantic Chapter Premiere Design Awards in the Design with Purpose category; and an Award of Merit for Best Sustainable Project in the 2023 NAIOP DC | MD Awards of Excellence.

“As the future of the workplace evolves, we’re seeing clients accommodating hybrid work models and thinking critically about how to maximize their existing spaces. Perkins&Will’s commitment to Living Design and our partnerships with leaders in green building enable us to solve these back-to-work challenges while creating healthier spaces for professionals and the environment.”

Rodrigo Letonja, Perkins&Will