Rendering of the American Geophysical Union Headquarters building

Challenge

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) is renovating its 62,000-square-foot headquarters with the goal of achieving net zero energy and waste consumption–a goal typically reserved for newly constructed buildings. The renovation, which includes a complete overhaul of its work space footprint to create a 21st century state-of-the-art facility and ground-level public exhibit, will be the first-of-its-kind in the region. During its beginning stages, AGU engaged Stratacomm to join its project team, along with partners Hickok Cole Architects, Interface Engineering, Skanska and owner’s rep MGAC, to manage stakeholder, media and community outreach during the planning, design and construction phases of the project.

The project required various levels of approvals and exceptions to be granted from the Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC 2B), the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) and the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA), as well as closely working with DC Water, the District Department of Energy and Environment and the Office of Planning.

Our Approach

As with developing any effective communications campaign, Stratacomm began with research through a comprehensive media and materials communications audit and a strategic planning session with AGU and its project partners. Stratacomm also:

  • Developed a long-term communications and public engagement plan to reach and inform members and encourage support from the multiple stakeholders impacted by the project, including surrounding residents and businesses, city officials, development and green building sector experts, and media.
  • Led development of a project website to serve as a one-stop shop for all project updates, raise awareness about the project and the benefits of net zero buildings, and to document best practices for sustainable construction.

After the initial planning phase, Stratacomm put the strategy to work in a variety of ways for AGU. Throughout the course of construction, Stratacomm:

  • Coordinated community outreach with project neighbors to ensure they were informed about project developments, hours of work and street and sidewalk closures due to construction.
  • Created a content planning calendar that tells the project story through blog and social media posts, videos and photos about milestones, team members and topics related to AGU’s mission and renovation.
  • Coordinated with key stakeholder groups to host hard-hat construction tours.
  • Managed media interviews to further AGU’s messaging and goals for the project.
  • Researched and submitted for conference and award opportunities where the project team could present to raise awareness about the unique integrated planning and renovation process.
  • Assisted the project team with permit acquisition in coordination with city stakeholders.

Initial Planning Phase: Community Engagement Timeline

Results

Stratacomm continues to work in tandem with AGU as the lead, resulting in numerous successes, including:

  • Coordinated and planned more than 15 educational tours of the renovation with the project team to provide insight into the building’s architecture and sustainable technologies before it is completed with the U.S. Green Building Council, American Institute of Architects and the U.S. Department of Energy, among others.
  • Media outreach resulting in placements with Architect Magazine, Greater Greater Washington, Retrofit Magazine, Urban Land Online, Washington Business Journal and WTOP.
  • Successful community meetings with neighboring residents, businesses, public officials and interested stakeholders for AGU and its project team to talk about the expectations of the project, its effect on the local community and the overall city and share proposed renderings of the project.
  • Provided regular community updates via email and social media to notify surrounding neighbors of about project-related impacts, which allowed for minimal complaints about construction work and facilitated positive relationships with the neighborhood.
  • Launched a website that will be updated periodically as the project moves through approvals. The site serves as a repository for the project highlighting innovative sustainability technologies and approaches in architecture, engineering and construction as well as a communication tool for members and staff providing project updates and progress.
  • The project team celebrated unanimous approvals from ANC 2B and HPRB, with final BZA approval, also unanimous, in July 2016. These approvals were paramount to proving the projects’ feasibility and obtaining final fiscal approval from the AGU Board of Directors in December 2016.