Why HDR pursued and achieved LEED Platinum for their new Virginia facility

Stephen Manlove is managing principal for the Washington, DC office of the award-winning HDR Architecture group. Their new office building, located in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington, VA, was just awarded LEED Platinum certification under USGBC’s LEED for Interiors, under version 2009 of the program.

Such a pursuit is not for the faint of heart. Manlove wrote a great piece for the HDR blog that tells the story called, Our Journey to Platinum and How it has Shaped Who We Are. So, why did HDR go to such great lengths for their new facility? 

Besides bragging rights — it would be the first of HDR’s 225+ offices to achieve LEED Platinum — there were specific strategic goals the team set out to achieve:

HDR is first and foremost a design-focused organization. Increasingly, energy management, sustainability and indoor health are core design considerations for our clients. As design leaders, we have an obligation to set sustainable practice standards in our communities. The LEED credential would establish the office as a living lab for environmental design—and the practice as a leader in sustainability.

If the design of the new office was going to serve as a catalyst for change, specifically what would make that change happen? The office design has many wonderful attributes. Its location in the up-and-coming Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington is ideal, with easy access to shopping, restaurants and multiple mass transit options, including Metro, D.C.’s subway system. The space itself is rich with collaboration opportunities, both formal and informal. It is visually exciting and filled with amenities for staff and visitors alike. Combined, these attributes support the transformation that we were—and are continuing to—strive for.

But the commitment to create and live in a highly sustainable environment is something more. It has required each of us in the office to change our behaviors in specific ways—changes that speak to design, to our own and our colleagues’ well-being and to our commitment to environmental stewardship. Sustain a change of behavior, and over time, you see a shift in the organizational culture; shift the culture and you have evolved the organization. We set an audacious goal that aligned with how we envisioned ourselves, and it has set us on that path. Catalyst applied, outcome realized.

The Results

My experience working on numerous LEED certification projects — several specifically under the 2009 version of LEED — is that for the process to be successful, all stakeholders really need to be on board. Here are just some of the positive outcomes that the HDR team has realized in a little over a year of occupancy in their new DC office:

  • Better retention of staff
  • Improved recruitment results
  • Better client engagement and alignment
  • Hub for clients, staff and community

And lastly:

We continue to learn how to work in a sustainable way, and we are seeing those same concepts maturing in our project designs in the process. And we’re getting better at practicing as truly integrated teams… In short, the lessons we have learned through our own journey are helping us expand, evolve and elevate our practice, and in turn become better partners to those we serve.

Congratulations, HDR. Truly a job well done.


Image courtesy HDR