‍Residential, Library Projects Will Focus on Net-Zero Energy Design and Embodied Carbon Life Cycle

Quinn Evans has been awarded a Building Innovation Design Assistance Grant in the amount of $23,140 from the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment’s (DOEE) Green Building Fund. The funding will support two projects: the development of Net-Zero Energy (NZE) design concepts for Hyacinth’s Way, an affordable multifamily housing building in Southwest D.C.; and an Embodied Carbon Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for the Southeast Neighborhood Library.

The District’s Design Assistance Grant program provides funding to support early design assistance to pursue NZE design strategies and analyze embodied carbon. Early, integrated design is essential to the construction of high-performing buildings and achieving deep energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions. The development of innovative strategies to reduce energy and GHG emissions in buildings supports Mayor Muriel Bowser’s pledge to make Washington, D.C. carbon neutral and climate resilient by 2050. Hyacinth’s Way and Southeast Neighborhood Library are two of five projects to be granted DOEE financial support this year to achieve NZE performance or assess embodied carbon.

Hyacinth’s Way: An NZE Showcase

Hyacinth’s Way is a planned residential property with studio and one-bedroom apartments, community amenities, and support services for formerly homeless men and women over the age of 55. Set just north of the St. Elizabeth's East campus, the four story-building will offer 71 units, a clinic, office space, and a below-grade parking garage. The DOEE grant has allocated $13,150 to Quinn Evans to design the project as a model for NZE strategies, meaning that the building will produce as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year and enhance energy efficiency, occupant comfort, operational savings, and extended building systems life cycles.

The process will include a design charrette, comparative energy modeling, and a renewable energy analysis. Quinn Evans will also study multiple building façade designs, with iterations based on passive solar design and energy model results. The findings will be summarized in a comprehensive case study presenting the most feasible approaches to achieve NZE.

A rendering of a building with a sign saying "Hyacinth's Way" above the entry.
A rendering of a building with a sign saying "Hyacinth's Way" above the entry.

Southeast Neighborhood Library: Minimizing Construction-Related GHGs

The second project, which will receive $9,990 from the grant funds, will examine the Southeast Neighborhood Library, a historic building that opened in 1922 and is one of three Carnegie-funded libraries in the city. The design-build team of Whiting-Turner Construction/Quinn Evans has been selected to restore and expand the brick building, a D.C. public library located in the Capitol Hill National Register District.

An aerial rendering of a library.

Quinn Evans will lead an assessment of the embodied carbon of the library’s construction materials. Embodied carbon is the sum of all GHGs resulting from the construction of buildings, including material manufacturing and construction activities. Buildings account for 40% of global GHG emissions with the manufacturing and construction activities are responsible for nearly a third of that amount. Using material that has a smaller GHG footprint, using less material, making structures long-lasting, and reusing existing materials are the best ways to reduce GHG impact of construction.  

The analysis for the Southeast Neighborhood library will focus on developing strategies to reduce the impact of the concrete and steel construction materials and quantifying the value of the reused building elements. Quinn Evans will work with Silman, the project structural engineer, to develop reduced carbon design strategies, identify and quantify the amount of steel and concrete going into the renovation using a building information model (BIM) and cost estimates, and prepare two versions of the life cycle analysis in order to compare the use of steel and concrete for the renovation versus a total replacement of the building. The findings will inform design and specification strategies for reduced GHG emissions on the project that are specific to locally available construction materials. It will also provide a model for future opportunities to assess and value embodied carbon reductions associated with existing buildings.

A rendering of a library entrance.
This Building Innovation Design Grant signals the District’s deep commitment to reducing emissions associated with climate change and our role as architects, and part of the building construction sector, to lead the way to solutions” says Julia Siple, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, a senior associate and director of sustainability with Quinn Evans. “If we are going to meet the District’s goal of carbon neutral by 2050, we must find ways to pick up the pace of improvement and change standard practice. Greenhouse gas emissions linked to residential and commercial buildings currently account for 75 percent of the District’s total emissions. To meet the 2050 goal, we need to make our new buildings Net-Zero Energy, use better building materials, and value our existing buildings and continue to invest in their efficiency.
Hyacinth’s Way and Southeast Neighborhood Library are two phenomenal projects, and this grant will help hone our process and use of analytical tools,” adds Siple. “We’ll be able to identify, quantify, and communicate impactful GHG reduction strategies that are specific to these projects and the District’s construction market. This analysis will help these two projects now and inform future projects, incentives, and policies. We’re very excited to receive this support from DOEE and share the commitment to making our buildings contribute to healthy and sustainable communities.