Two major buildings in Washington, D.C., have won big. For the 22nd year, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on the Environment (COTE) has awarded 10 recipients in the nation the organization’s highest honor, known as the COTE Top Ten Awards. To be awarded, projects must align with criteria for 10 measures that include social, economic, and ecological values. The two D.C. buildings that aligned perfectly with this criteria were the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Downtown and the Mundo Verde charter school in Truxton Circle.
The Renwick Gallery was the first purpose-built art museum in the country. Constructed in 1859 by architect James Renwick, Jr., the National Historic Landmark experienced a major renovation in 2015 by DLR Group that involved restoring two long-concealed vaulted ceilings, improving accessibility, and replacing all of the building systems. According to the AIA, the project achieved a 50 percent reduction in annual energy use.
“The success of the Renwick’s improvements demonstrate that museums and historic landmarks can deliver comfort energy savings with creative retrofits and will hopefully encourage similar projects,” as stated in the public comment made by the five-member jury. “The Renwick Gallery renovation wove complex and robust new systems while preserving the impressive historic design and collection and allowing opportunities for new works to be displayed. All of this was done within a very restrained site, budget, and schedule.”
Mundo Verde is the first green-focused charter school in the city, located in Truxton Circle at 30 P Street NW. The school’s elementary school and childhood annex are certified LEED Gold and Platinum, respectively. The school opened in August 2011 in a commercial space on the second floor of a Dupont Circle office building. In 2013, it was selected to inhabit a renovated historic school building, known as the J.F. Cook School, which is named after John F. Cook, a pre-Civil War educator and activist. The project completed in 2015, led by Studio Twenty Seven Architecture. Mundo Verde currently teaches students from PreK-3 through fifth grade.
On the AIA website, the jury’s statement reads, “The project is a compelling example of a renovation—and an equally compelling addition—that improves the entire site. The sustainable practices, in particular, went well beyond the buildings themselves.”
In April 2017, George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health was one of the recipients of the COTE Top Ten Awards.
For more details on what other projects and architecture firms were awarded in the COTE Top Ten, head to the AIA website.
• 2018 COTE Top Ten [AIA]