by Kevin Dauray
ALEXANDRIA, VA-Last evening, Alexandria Renewal Enterprises-a marvel of design located in Old Town-played host to the City’s Green Building Forum. The attendees consisted mostly of City employees and architects from various firms interested in hearing the ideas of the guest panelists and learning about the latest developments in eco-friendly construction.
The panelists sat behind a long table in the large conference room while the majority of audience members took chairs in the first two rows. Though event planners expected the crowd to be larger, at one point during the night, Matt Fine, an architect employed by Peabody Architects in Alexandria, noticed the empty chairs and spoke of how crucial it is for people to be educated about green building.
“We only have one Earth, one atmosphere,” he emphasized, taking a slight pause before moving on with his segment of the presentation.
The event itself covered various aspects of green building. Don Simpson, Chairman of the Green Building Task Force, opened the proceedings with a summary of the City’s green building policy update. City Manager Mark Jinks followed with an explanation of how Alexandria will continue to work to meet the standards outlined in the policy update –from shifting to clean-fuel buses to utilizing wind power.
First to present were two important members of AlexRenew’s design team: Lisa Lettieri, Architect and Project Manager, and Patrick Murphy, Mechanical Engineer. The whole project took seven years to complete, The building itself was described by Murphy-who works for the Boston-based Vanderweil Engineers-as a “facility that embodies the AlexRenew ethos of giving back to the community through sustainability.” Letierri, an architect at Rust Orling, pointed out that since the public can visit the site, an educational opportunity exists.
The aim of the design team, often echoed by their fellow panelists, was to achieve net zero energy. This concept means that the energy used on any site will equal the amount of its renewable energy. This goal, however, can be hard to achieve because of budgets and time constraints.
To illustrate similar work done around the country, the discussion moved beyond Alexandria. Matt Fine and his fellow presenter Michael Hindle, Owner of Passive to Positive, reviewed their work in updating Weinberg Commons in the District to ensure that it met green standards. Next, Myrrh Caplan, Sustainability Director at Skanska, discussed the forward-thinking mindset that went into the designs of apartment sites in Boston and at Georgia Tech University.
“There’s a wide range of topics that owners have when they’re looking at green facilities…[G]reen building is flexible, it’s adaptive, and it’s just about taking that first step,” she concluded, seeming to call to Alexandria’s leaders and citizens to do more to make the City as a green as possible.