AGU current and new headquarters
(left) AGU’s current headquarters, built in 1994, which is due for renovation this spring. Credit: Kevin Koski, Courtesy of AGU. (right) An artist’s rendering of the updated building, which will sport an array of rooftop solar panels and other features to achieve net zero energy status. Credit: Hickok Cole Architects.

On Saturday, 10 December, the Board of Directors of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) officially approved the $41.7 million renovation of the organization’s headquarters in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, D. C. The existing building will be updated to feature a collaborative, state-of-the-art space for AGU members, its staff, and the public and will build understanding of Earth and space science and showcase advancement through innovative sustainable technology. Construction is expected to begin in early March 2017.

The updated design will further AGU’s vision of communicating science and its benefits to society, encouraging collaboration, and promoting sustainability.

The renovation proposal underwent an 18-month approval process that involved securing zoning exemptions from the Board of Zoning Adjustment and winning support from the Historic Preservation Review Board and Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B. The updated design will further AGU’s vision of communicating science and its benefits to society, encouraging collaboration, and promoting sustainability.

A Neighborhood Landmark

The 22-year-old building has an established legacy in the neighborhood, which the renovated building will preserve and expand. To further community involvement, the renovated building will host exhibits open to the public. The scientific disciplines that AGU members and their fellow Earth and space scientists study—such as air quality, rainfall trends, and climate change—directly affect people in the Dupont Circle community and around the world. The exhibits will showcase member work, sharing the positive effects of Earth and space science and demonstrating humanity’s relationship to the universe.

A Dynamic Workspace for Staff and Members

The renovated building will feature a state-of-the-art conference space for AGU and outside groups, as well as areas where visiting members can meet, present, and discuss in small or informal groups. Members and staff will benefit from the renovated building’s dynamic, collaborative environments. The building itself is designed to reflect the disciplines that AGU members study, and public exhibits will elevate the visibility of member achievements.

A Sustainable Future

The new building will have an impact beyond Dupont Circle and even beyond its member community. This will be the first renovated commercial building in Washington, D. C., to achieve net zero energy status, that is, to produce on site the same amount of energy that it uses over the course of the year. To help accomplish this, the plans incorporate a variety of sustainable technologies, including an array of about 660 four-by-eight-foot solar panels, a water reclamation cistern, and a municipal sewer heat exchange.

Further, the renovation project will repurpose and recycle existing architecture and iconic materials. AGU hopes the project will become a model for other commercial renovation and construction as the District reduces its environmental impact.

Moving Forward

During the renovation, AGU operations will continue as usual from a temporary space in downtown Washington, to which AGU staff will relocate in February. Construction is expected to wrap up in time for the 10–14 December 2018 “Welcome Home” kickoff that will launch the 51st annual Fall Meeting, to be held in Washington, and AGU’s 2019 centennial.

Follow the building’s progress and learn more at

—Elizabeth Jacobsen, Staff Writer


Jacobsen, E. (2016), American Geophysical Union approves renovation of headquarters, Eos, 97, Published on 12 December 2016.

Text © 2016. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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