Wednesday, November 13, 2013

UK: US Department of State Breaks Ground on New US Embassy Construction Project

According to The Latin American Tribune, US Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Matthew W. Barzun and Director of the US Department of State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) Lydia Muniz broke ground on the new US Embassy in London today (November 14).

The new Embassy, designed by Kieran Timberlake of Philadelphia, PA, will be situated on a 4.9-acre site in the Nine Elms Opportunity Planning Area and will include a chancery, a consular section, support spaces, a US Marine Security Guard residence, access pavilions, and parking. Vauxhall Station will be the nearest Tube stop.

"The Embassy’s move is also an incredible success for Wandsworth. The US Government was among the very first institutions to buy-in to our vision for Nine Elms and their investment was a watershed moment in the area’s transformation. They have been a magnet for new investment and a vital catalyst for a regeneration program which is delivering tens of thousands of jobs and homes. The ambassador and his staff are very welcome to Wandsworth.”

According to the State Department, the new US Embassy's design incorporates sustainable features at the leading edge of practice, including aspirations for carbon neutrality, a self-sufficient water system, as well as goals for minimum certification at Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Gold and Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) Excellent.

The new Embassy is expected to be completed in 2017 and will be constructed by BL Harbert International of Birmingham, AL.

Since 1999, as part of the Department’s Capital Security Construction Program, OBO has completed 108 new diplomatic facilities and has an additional 31 projects in design or under construction.

OBO’s mission is to provide safe, secure, and functional facilities that represent the U.S. Government to the host nation and support our staff in the achievement of U.S. foreign policy objectives. These facilities should represent American values and the best in American architecture, engineering, technology, sustainability, art, culture, and construction execution.

The Nine Elms area on the Thames River is situated less than a mile upstream from the Houses of Parliament. This industrial district of the South Bank has undergone a wholesale transformation to a brand new residential and business quarter right in the heart of London. Anticipating new residences for another 30,000 people, the revitalized area will include two new Tube stations and a new linear park sweeping right through the district from east to west.

The new Embassy is being constructed with proceeds from the sale of other US government property in the UK, including the former Chancery in Grosvenor Square.

"The new U.S. Embassy will enhance the urban fabric of London and demonstrate exceptional American architecture, technology, and sustainability," says the State Department. "The design of the new facility demonstrates exceptional environmental leadership that is at the leading edge of practice."

COMMENT: The design team established sustainability aspirations that include carbon neutrality, a self-sufficient water system, optimization of daylighting and occupant control of systems, as well as minimum goals for certification at Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Gold and BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) Excellent.

"The first step toward achieving carbon neutrality is to use energy reduction strategies and technologiesto minimize consumption," said the State Department spokesperson. "These strategies will allow for the Embassy to contribute energy back to the grid when producing more than needed."

Water management strategies include a deep well aquifer to provide self-sufficiency in potable water; on-site waste-water treatment plant that collects waste from flow and flush fixtures and treats it to a level that can be reused in flush fixtures; as well as roof rainwater collection and property storm runoff reuse for cooling systems and irrigation.

A ground level pond will be used for heat ejection, reducing the need for conventional cooling towers and daylight is a key driver in the building design and will be utilized to minimize the need for electric lighting.

The Embassy’s cubic form will be wrapped on three sides in a transparent polymer, or ethylene tetraflouroethylene (ETFE), that has been optimized to shade interiors while admitting daylight and framing large open view portals to the outside. 

Its pattern visually fragments the façade while it intercepts unwanted solar gain and transforms it into energy by means of thin film photovoltaics positioned in the ETFE foils.  

Over 800 American and British workers will be involved in the construction.