Building with Green Techniques

(Conservation Currents, Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District)

Philip Merrill Environmental CenterThe Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s headquarters, the Philip Merrill Environmental Center in Annapolis, serves as a model of green building techniques that have minimal impact on the environment. The Center is 32,000 square feet and sits on 31 acres of Bay shoreline. In 2001, the Center achieved the highest rating of any office building by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Just what makes this facility so green?

The Center’s philosophy embodies the concepts of reduce, reuse, and recycle. The building reduces pollution by using two-thirds less energy than a typical office building of the same size.

  • Rooftop cisterns capture rainwater for use in the building, reducing the per-person water usage by as much as 90 percent of that in a standard office building.
  • Composting toilets are non-flushing units that recycle waste and reduce the amount of water needed by the building.
  • Natural ventilation allows Bay breezes to cool the building, reducing the need for air conditioning. When sensors determine that the outdoor climate is suitable, the mechanical system will shut down, motorized windows will open, and green lights will turn on throughout the building, signaling employees to open their windows.
  • The building was sited on the footprint of existing buildings, keeping land disturbance to a minimum with no increase in impervious surface. Concrete from demolition of the site’s previous buildings is now being used in roadbeds.
  • Most of the building materials were produced within 300 miles of the facility to reduce air pollution associated with transportation. The building’s beams are parallel-strand lumber, which is constructed from new growth sources, easily regenerated.
  • Active solar features provide approximately 30 percent of the building’s energy needs. Passive solar features allow natural day lighting and solar heating in the winter; trellises and sunshades provide shading in the summer.
  • Parking under the building eliminates the need for a large paved, impervious surface lot that would increase stormwater runoff. Limited surface parking outside the building has a permeable gravel surface. Any remaining stormwater runoff is directed through a bioretention stormwater treatment system that treats oil and then filters the runoff through a created wetland.
  • Native, drought-tolerant species carefully selected for the landscape minimize the need for irrigation and mowing.

For more information about the Philip Merrill Environmental Center, call 410-268-8816 or visit

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