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HPRB OKs Net Zero Renovation of ‘Unique’ Dupont Building

by Tim Regan May 27, 2016 at 3:45 pm 1 Comment

Photo courtesy of AGU

A plan to install solar panels and other energy efficient upgrades at the headquarters of the American Geophysical Union in Dupont Circle has moved a step closer to reality.

Members of D.C.’s Historic Preservation Review Board (HRPB) unanimously voted yesterday to give their blessing to the AGU’s planned renovation, which includes new insulated windows, a sewer heat exchange system and a rooftop solar array that would help the building produce as much energy as it consumes.

Though the project has received overwhelming support from neighbors and Dupont’s ANC 2B, some HRPB members were initially skeptical of the idea when it was presented months ago. One board member, Graham Davidson, remarked in April that the project could hurt the “neighborhood character,” adding that the solar panels might be more appropriate “in some remote part of Seattle” rather than in Dupont.

But after viewing the most recent plan for the project and hearing testimony from AGU representatives, ANC 2B Commissioner Daniel Warwick, Greater Greater Washington’s David Alpert and others, Davidson appeared to change his mind, at least somewhat.

Davidson said that although the designers “made a lot of very positive design decisions,” he added that the “unique” net zero building should be “treated as an experiment.” Davidson said he worried that, if allowed on one building, “we are going to have hundreds of other buildings in the city who are proposing the same thing.”

Davidson continued that he wanted to “make it clear that this is approved for a very particular set of circumstances and that it’s not applicable to the city as a whole.”

“Let’s see what it looks like and see what people feel about it,” Davidson said.

The board member also ruffled a few feathers by saying that the building’s solar panels were mere trappings in the overall energy efficient design.

“The difference the solar array makes compared to everything else you’ve done is relatively minor,” Davidson said. “It enables you to say that you’re net zero, which is great for marketing, but in practical terms it makes very little difference.”

“HPRB Boardmember thinks net zero ‘in practical terms it makes very little difference,'” Warwick tweeted out in response to Davidson’s comment. “What does he think will make a difference?”

Photo courtesy of American Geophysical Union

Comments (1)

  1. For future projects, there is a new PV breakthrough that increases output-per-sq-ft in a dense arrays to 150% of the “flat array” output. It will become available in later 2017 — see MIT 100% Carbon Free proposal at http://bit.ly/28Hmauk (the PV breakthrough is included in the Installation Phase 2 section).

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