Commencing with the installation of the Capitol’s cornerstone in 1793, the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) established a legacy of sustainability through investments in building structures that were designed and built for permanence. The AOC believes that the most sustainable buildings are those that can be maintained indefinitely and represent the potential for significant resource conservation. Harnessing these benefits requires thoughtful execution of restoration and preservation efforts, which are designed to take advantage of our building’s inherent energy conservation features and to minimize the resource inputs required for maintenance and operations.
The AOC takes a holistic approach, recognizing the delicate balance between preservation and modernization, and the finite fiscal resources available to accomplish these priorities. The agency’s Preservation Policy and Standards details the specific “Heritage Assets” (structures, landscapes, art, archives, furniture, etc.) protected under the stewardship of the AOC, as well as the set of rules to ensure the highest quality of care.
This work also extends well beyond the Capitol. For example, the United States Botanic Garden (a jurisdiction of the AOC) is a partner in the Sustainable Sites Initiative, an interdisciplinary effort led by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and the Botanic Garden, to develop the first national guidelines and performance benchmarks for landscapes and gardens.
Fiscal Year 2011 marked the formal establishment of the Sustainability, Energy and Water Conservation Division. This Sustainability and Energy Division is responsible for continuing the AOC’s sustainability and energy performance initiatives and addressing some of the AOC’s greatest challenges. The Division produces an annual Sustainability, Energy and Water Conservation report to inform Congress and the American people of the AOC’s progress on meeting its resource efficiency goals as well as Sustainability Plans in four year increments to report on the AOC’s program and initiatives.
The AOC’s sustainability program is inspired by external, federal policies and its own internal directives. Sustainability drivers include goals set by Congress in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct05) and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA 2007). Although a legislative branch agency, the AOC also voluntarily commits to follow the Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings under Executive Order 13514. Further, the AOC is challenging itself to attain goals established in the Agency’s Strategic Vision Action Plan.
The Capitol Complex Mast Plan contains six framework plans—Historical and Cultural Assets, Landscape and Open Space, Security, Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure and Sustainability. These plans highlight systematic level issues impacting the campus and are then addressed through project execution. The Sustainability Framework Plan includes sustainable best practice management strategies and goals that are consistent with EPAct05 and EISA 2007. It provides a roadmap for stakeholders to identify synergies that exist between various building and site systems and integrate life-cycle costs into capitol project planning and was a major driver in the development of the AOC’s sustainability program.
The AOC has cultivated a legacy of sustainability by promoting a culture of resource conservation, increasing energy and water efficiency, promoting health and wellness, sustaining the Capitol’s natural sites and practicing one of the highest forms of sustainability, historic preservation.
The AOC aims to be a trusted partner of Congress by demonstrating methods that conserve resources and make our facilities more sustainable.