New and Historic Buildings - FEMP Working Group Visit Reveals Common Sustainable Design Features

August 1, 2002

South Wall of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Philip Merrill Environmental Center

The south wall of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Philip Merrill Environmental Center faces the Chesapeake Bay and takes advantage of natural light and ventilation.

What are the limitations to incorporating sustainable design in new construction or the renovation of existing buildings, including historical structures? Not many, if you have the imagination, the will to succeed, and a great project team. That's what FEMP's Interagency Sustainability Working Group and FEMP staff learned on a recent site visit to two facilities in Annapolis, Maryland, on August 7, 2002.

Two sustainable design projects in Annapolis illustrate that with creativity and imagination, saving energy and creating a pleasing and productive work environment can go hand-in-hand. The group's first stop was the Philip Merrill Environmental Center, the recently completed headquarters of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF). The CBF is a 35-year old organization dedicated to environmental advocacy and education and the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay. When the CBF decided to build a new headquarters facility, the organization selected a 31-acre shoreline property on the Chesapeake Bay and established a project team to design and construct an innovative facility. The goal of the project was to incorporate sustainable design features and to improve and protect local water quality and habitat. The facility boasts an array of features including rainwater cisterns, composting toilets, geothermal heat pumps, and a smart parking design of gravel instead of pavement. The center also features natural ventilation, passive solar design, and structural insulated panels. For more information, please see the CBF web site.

Photo of U.S. Naval Academy's Mahan Hall.

Natural daylight makes electrical lighting unnecessary during normal activity hours at the U.S. Naval Academy's Mahan Hall.

At their next stop, the working group toured the Mahan, Sampson, and Maury Halls on the campus of the U.S. Naval Academy. Built in 1899, this beautiful and historic building complex of classrooms, offices, and passageways was renovated in 2001. The project's design team focused attention on restoring and infusing interior space with natural light from skylights and interior glass. The renovation project also includes natural ventilation, water conservation devices, building materials composed of recycled content, and recycled furniture. After visiting the building complex, the group was convinced that the historical integrity of any building could not only be preserved but also enhanced through the use of sustainable design principles. To learn more about the project, please see

For more information on FEMP's Interagency Sustainability Working Group, please contact Beverly Dyer of FEMP at

The Interagency Sustainable Working Group was established in 2001 as an entity of the Interagency Energy Management Task Force. Composed of representatives from 12 Federal agencies interested in pursuing sustainable design and construction, the group's mission is to increase the collaboration and exchange of information among Federal agencies to advance the use of sustainable design/construction in Federal facilities nationwide. Meeting on a bi-monthly basis, participants discuss and share strategies regarding sustainable design and construction issues including design standards and guidelines, technical assistance and training, cost issues, the growing demand for architectural and engineering technical expertise, and practical application. In addition, the working group is developing a business case for sustainable design and construction in the Federal sector; the group's report is expected to be completed fall 2002.

For more information on FEMP's Interagency Sustainability Working Group, please contact Beverly Dyer of FEMP at