Last month, members of the BKM design team attended the Topping Out Ceremony for Georgetown University’s 55 H Street building. What sets this exciting project apart is its upcoming achievement of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum status through the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and its role in the move to a decarbonized future.

Located within the District of Columbia, the project certification of LEED Silver is now routine and commonplace for a public building. This design, however, stands out in the world of sustainability for being on track to achieve the highest LEED certification available – LEED Platinum. Scorecards are used throughout the design and construction process to track how many points are earned towards LEED certification. To achieve LEED Platinum status, a project must earn 80 or more points. Points were earned through water use reduction, categories related to being in a dense urban environment, and energy use reduction.

As a student housing space, the building design incorporates a large domestic water supply and heating system with very high demand. This project challenged the designers and the client to reduce water usage as much as possible through low flow fixtures, particularly in the showers. Typically, showers operate at 2.5 GPM (gallons per minute). BKM’s team was able to design 1.5 GPM showers, allowing for further energy reduction.

Energy use reduction was led by innovative use of variable refrigerant flow (VRF) HVAC systems along with supplemental power provided by photovoltaic (PV) systems, including the use of photovoltaics not only on the roof, but on the siding of the top floor as well. Using vertical piping distribution, the high-efficiency VRF systems were able to account for the majority of energy savings. This design went hand in hand with the strategy to decarbonize the building.

Following the lead of the recent Clean Energy DC initiative, 55 H Street has made the commitment to remove all non-emergency sources of fossil fuels from site. A major step in transforming our built environment into a sustainable future is eliminating non-renewable sources of energy from our life spaces. The design team on this project was challenged to create MEP systems that could abide by these restrictions, utilizing heat pump preheating and innovative control schemes to best shepherd our energy resources.

In the move toward a more sustainable future, LEED certification has become the norm. BKM is proud to be part of the 55 H Street design team, and with our staff of LEED and WELL Accredited Professionals, we look forward to working on more LEED certified projects.