by Dan Rudt

They were twelve men and women in business attire. The office building had been stripped down to cinder block, steel, concrete and glass. Each donned goggles and gloves, hoisted long-handled mallets, and proceeded to smash the windows in front of them. It was not an act of vandalism or a prank. It was a symbolic act of a new beginning for an old building. It was a glass breaking ceremony on Tuesday, November 8, at 7550 Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda.

Chip Akridge (L) ready to break glass with John Coury of Rockwood Capital

The vacant 120,000 square foot office building at the corner of Wisconsin and Commerce Lane was purchased at GSA auction in 2010 by Washington, DC commercial real estate developer Akridge in partnership with Rockwood Capital, LLC. Reconstruction is underway and expected to be completed by late 2012. New, energy-saving features are expected to earn the building LEED certification.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The certification program was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in 2000. LEED certification is available for commercial buildings, schools, health care facilities, retailers and homes, whether new, existing or renovated. USGBC examines buildings for energy efficiency, CO2 reduction, indoor environmental quality, water intake, resource depletion, and other environmental factors. Certification is awarded at four levels, Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Certified.

Akridge is rebuilding 7550 Wisconsin Avenue with LEED Gold certification in mind. To attain that standard, a number of environmentally friendly changes will be incorporated into the building. Among the improvements, according to Lisa Steen, Akridge Vice President of Marketing:

  • A green source will be used to derive 35% of the building’s energy
  • Energy use will be reduced by nearly 20% compared to non-LEED certified buildings
  • Water conserving fixtures will assist in 35% reduction in water usage
  • A green roof with rooftop terrace is designed to assist in keeping the ambient temperature of the roof cooler through evaporation of water
  • Indoor air quality will be enhanced through the use of low emitting materials and ample fresh outdoor air to be distributed through the building
  • Reconstruction will utilize 20% recycled content, and more than 50% of construction waste will be recycled
  • Bicycle storage and changing facilities will be available to building occupants
  • Building occupants will benefit from daylight in 75% of the space and views in 90% of the space, adding to the quality of life and overall work environment

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (L), with Ron Paul, Chairman & CEO of EagleBank

Akridge is no stranger to green buildings. Among its numerous awards, the company received Energy Star Leader “Top Performer” Awards in 2008, 09 and 10. It was named Energy Star Partner of the Year in 2009, the same year that the USGBC National Capital Region honored company founder and chairman, Chip Akridge, as Member of the Year.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, speaking at the glassbreaking ceremony in Bethesda, thanked Chip Akridge and company president, Matt Klein for “providing employment and economic activity.” Franchot went on to say that “the private sector is the only engine that’s going to bring us out of the recession.”

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett commented at the ceremony that, “this is the right thing for Bethesda and this is the right thing for Montgomery County.”

Dan Rudt is a former radio news anchor and public affairs program host for WPGC-AM, and producer for Westwood One Radio Networks. He is currently a freelance writer/reporter in Montgomery County, MD covering the environmental beat.