The First LEED Rated Embassy in the U.S. Uses Copper
09 May 2017
Travels with Larry: Embassy of Finland, Washington, D.C.
By Larry Peters, Copper Development Association Project Manager & Architectural Applications Specialist
Walking around northwest Washington, D.C., I found myself standing in front of Number One Observatory Circle, the official residence of the vice president. However, what caught my attention was the emerald, rectangular structure across the street on Massachusetts Ave, also known as Embassy Row.
The Embassy of Finland’s exterior is clad in prepatinated copper and a grid of copper sunscreens (shrouded with climbing vegetation). The copper wall cladding mimics the layering of materials, going from green to black and over again between the narrow panels of the cladding system. This makes for a striking neighbor among the older, more traditional buildings that one would normally associate with an embassy structure. The use of natural materials helped it become the first LEED rated embassy in the U.S. In 2015, the embassy went from gold LEED certification to platinum.
Copper and its many alloys, such as the brasses and bronzes, offer visually stunning qualities along with unique physical and mechanical properties. This ensures that designers and building owners not only achieve their visual aspirations and performance specifications, but also are able to meet their environmental and cost-performance goals as well. Although not all uses of copper directly apply to LEED credits, all support fundamental objectives to maximize energy efficiency and minimize impact on our environment.
The structural design of the embassy exemplifies the Finnish preference towards simplicity and nature in architecture. In the early 1990s, Finnish architects Mikko Heikkinen and Markku Komonen truly managed to develop a green building that was ahead of its time. Two decades after its completion, the embassy earned LEED platinum certification, the highest rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.
So if you are ever in the nation’s capital with time to kill, consider wandering along Embassy Row. You’re bound to see architectural masterpieces with unique design elements from around the globe.