As communities across the country embrace sustainable initiatives the Washington area is a leader in implementing sustainable infrastructure through actions such as growing our uses of solar energy building super-efficient housing and incorporating sustainability principles into our unique mix of government commercial and residential development in the Region’s Activity Centers. These efforts are changing the face of several communities.
During its spring meeting the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government’s Region Forward Coalition discussed how these communities could use cross-cutting sustainable practices in transportation housing and economic development in addition to energy infrastructure. Coalition members discussed projects in Montgomery County the City of Frederick Arlington County and the District of Columbia that illustrate these green efforts.
Montgomery County Councilmember and Council of Governments Vice-Chairman Roger Berliner highlighted actions being taken by JBG in Montgomery County and Sustainable Design Group in Frederick as examples of how community efforts to build green work best when the private sector works with the public sector.
Through transit oriented development around Twinbrook Metro Station in Montgomery County JBG is helping to create a new mixed use community. The previously underutilized space around the Twinbrook Station on Metro’s highly trafficked Red Line has now added several hundred thousand square feet of development while encouraging transit use and walking and reducing emissions from cars in Montgomery County. Much of the new office retail and housing being constructed at Twinbrook is also being designed and built to meet LEED Gold standards a result of sustainable design green building materials construction site waste recycling organic landscaping and low flow water fixtures.
The future of green building in further out satellite-city Activity Centers where transit connection to the core isn’t as readily available is also being forged through energy efficient housing. The Sustainable Design Group re-built a community housing development in the City of Frederick at around the same cost of traditional home building. These high-quality townhomes greatly reduce utility bills and are located in downtown Frederick: reducing demand for car trips.
In the District the National Capital Planning Commission is retrofitting a transit rich centrally located federal business district to meet the future of a shrinking government footprint and demand for increased efficiency. The brutalist headquarters of the Department of Energy could soon give way to uninterrupted views of the Smithsonian Castle and connect the millions of visitors to the National Mall to the new waterfront at The Wharf as part of NCPC’s Southwest EcoDistrict plan. In addition to allowing walkability and tree boxes to flourish on what they bill as “Federal Triangle South” the project can also massively connect privately owned buildings to currently underused central heating and cooling originally only available to federal properties. Arlington County will enjoy similar economies of scale with its local grid retrofit of Crystal City while coinciding with the development of a streetcar line connecting a transit-lite portion of Fairfax County to the Columbia Pike corridor in Arlington and existing Metrorail lines.
These energy efficient single car trip reducing upgrades are key to the Region Forward Vision of building new sustainable dense communities clustered around transit as well as enhancing mobility and efficiency of more established Activity Centers.
These examples of efficient place-making green energy upgrades increase livability for everyone in the Washington region. Energy infrastructure is a key legislative priority of the COG Board of Directors and improving the region’s infrastructure to be more resilient secure and reliable will be the central topic of this month’s board meeting on May 14th.