It’s late Spring: bees are buzzing around an abundant, painterly patchwork of sedum flowers below. A breeze ruffles a flag on a flag pole. It’s so blue-sky serene up here atop the 8-story World Wildlife Fund (WWF) headquarters building, you could almost forget all the worries and responsibilities that await you below.
The green roof our member organization WWF sports (the third largest in Washington, DC) retains enough stormwater each year to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, preventing polluted runoff from entering the vulnerable Potomac River watershed. It also serves as a haven for wildlife like birds, butterflies and bees, and keeps the building cool on hot summer days.
The WWF roof is just one component of the organization’s captivating green building design. Every piece of the building’s remodel was made with human and environmental health in mind: from the Forestry Stewardship Council-certified wood in the workstations and flooring to the bike lockers, solar hot water heaters and efficient lighting, it’s one of the city’s prized sustainable buildings.
Across the country, EarthShare member organizations are showing their communities what buildings of the future will look like.
The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) headquartersin Reston, Virginia took the green roof concept and went vertical: their south-facing façade is covered with climbing native vines that keep the building cool and shelter wildlife. True to their mission, NWF made sure the structure reduced impact on local habitat by wreathing the building and parking lot in native plants, and maintaining the integrity of the existing forest on the site. They even keep track of all the creatures that share the land with them.
For an organization like the Rocky Mountain Institute, whose founder Amory Lovins is one of the world’s most renowned energy efficiency advocates, you’d expect nothing less than the most cutting-edge building design. Their facilities don’t disappoint: their Boulder, Colorado headquarters remodel cut energy use by 50% from the previous tenants. Lovins' own home is, in his own words, “a giant science experiment”: whatever energy consumption isn’t eliminated from the design is supplied by roof-top solar panels. Lovins’ home is so smart that it actually generates more electricity than it uses!
Workplace sustainability is about more than just technical features like low-flow water fixtures. Buildings should also be places where employees are energized and inspired by their surroundings. The World Resources Institute headquarters in Washington, DC, shares space with the building owner, the American Psychological Association. In 2008 they jointly installed a green roof and labyrinth which has been used since ancient times for meditation. The building is also LEED Gold certified.
Buildings like these inspire the rest of us to think intentionally about the kinds of environments we want to live and work in. They also show us that sustainability doesn’t mean we have to give anything up—in fact, green buildings are usually healthier, more enjoyable places to work than the alternative.
For more green building projects by our member organizations, check out the resources below or search the green roof database or visit the U.S. Green Building Council home page to find a project in your area—many building owners offer tours to help educate the public on the benefits of sustainable buildings.
Union of Concerned Scientists Green Headquarters (Cambridge, MA)