The Arts and Industries Building was built upon the principles of sustainability; these principles are as important today as they were in the late 19th century, when Architect Adolf Cluss first designed the structure using the natural resources at his disposal.

Interior view of the Rotunda structural members, ca. 2011The energy use and carbon footprint of the Art and Industries Building when it was designed in 1880 was virtually nothing; limited to just a little gas to light the building at night. It cooled the interior using natural ventilation from well-placed operable windows, and relied on natural day lighting to light its interior. With the advent of air conditioning, cheap energy, and artificial lights, these approaches were lost. The building became increasingly subdivided and partitioned off, closing in floor openings and courts, and adding windowless rooms for offices. And when you do that, you close off walls, you prevent daylight from penetrating into the deep floorplate, you prevent stack and cross ventilation from cooling. The story of the Arts and Industries Revitalization is not about renovating the building to take something that wasn’t sustainable and bring in new ideas to make it sustainable. In this case, it was about restoring the building back to its original sustainable attributes.

“Green” Design

When it was originally constructed, the building utilized exterior awnings as a means of passive solar design, shading the structure’s large windows in an effort to keep the interior cool during the hot Washington, D.C. summers. The awnings were removed over time, as air-conditioning made them obsolete. Green architectural advocates have suggested that the re-installation of these awnings could provide tremendous energy savings, at a fraction of the cost of popular photovoltaic technology.

Further sustainability efforts include improving the insulation values of the roof and using super-insulated glass to reduce solar heat gain. The building’s original open design lends itself to abundant natural light, which will be emphasized by technology that seamlessly controls and minimizes artificial light within the structure. Water conservation will be employed, in the form of storm water collection in underground cisterns on the site from the roof and site drainage. This will be used as gray water to supplement irrigation and toilet flushing water. This will help to reduce overburdening Washington’s already overtaxed storm water system.

Light transmission studies were undertaken as part of the 2010-2014 Revitalization project which illustrated the efficiency of the original use of natural light. For almost any time of the year, the building can function during daylight hours without relying on artificial lighting. The image shown is of noon in spring with an average of 35 foot candles distributed throughout the building.  The average for 35 foot candles in shown in the green color; the red is intense sunlight from windows facing south.  The blue is cooler light affected by the placement of balcony floors.

In addition to the energy performance on the new windows, the innovative use of a dot matrix film has reproduced in a modern medium the 37% light transmission found in the original frosted glass dual glazed units of 1881.

View of the computer model showing extensive natural light throughout the building.

Daylight studies indicated that for most of the year, most of the daylight hours, the building could function well without added artificial illumination. This image is of noon on the spring solstice with an average of 35 foot candles (green color) distributed throughout the building.

View of the interior with extensive internal natural lighting from windows and an open plan. Circa 1890Image of a range set up for a lecture circa 1900 with ample natural light.