The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest scientific and educational non-profit organizations. Its headquarters complex in Washington, DC is comprised of four interconnected buildings that range from 20 to 100 years in age. The first project to be certified under the LEED for Existing Buildings rating system, the project demonstrated both that LEED-EB could be successfully applied to older buildings and that performance improvements to older facilities can significantly increase a property’s market value.


Paladino Approach

In alignment with its mission to explore and conserve the world’s natural resources, National Geographic aims to be a leader in environmental sustainability and sought to achieve a LEED rating for its headquarters building. As this was one of the first projects to pursue a LEED EB rating, Paladino viewed the project as an opportunity to pioneer its LEED EB assessment and implementation approach, which the firm continues to refine and successfully implement to date.

Working with the owner and the energy performance contractor Johnson Controls, Paladino provided the full scope of services addressing operations, vendors, housekeeping, engineering, and energy and ventilation analysis required to achieve certification. Paladino was also a very active liaison between facility management and the USGBC to work through the certification of this multiple building facility as the first of its kind through the process.

The complex houses many different uses, including offices, retail, museum space, photography and imaging labs, a computer lab and a television studio. The team’s first step was to determine an energy use baseline for the entire complex. From there, all building systems were examined closely to look for opportunities to improve performance.

Due to the age of the facility, major HVAC system upgrades were required to meet energy use targets. National Graphic used a performance contractor that guaranteed expected energy savings for the $5.5 million HVAC system improvements.

Other major upgrades included the installation of energy efficient lighting, window films and a white roof that reduce solar heat gain inside the building, and new CFC-free cafeteria equipment. Water efficiency was achieved through low flow fixtures and irrigation system rain gauge controls. Indoor air quality improvements included asbestos abatement and ventilation and exhaust airflow verification. An energy management system monitors critical HVAC and ventilation systems and measures C02, temperature and humidity, allowing building management staff to act quickly to solve issues.

The project team worked across the organization to implement green operations and occupant policies, including green landscape, snow removal and building maintenance programs; a recycling program; green housekeeping; construction waste management plans; and materials selection policies. One month free parking, ongoing parking discounts and premium parking spots are offered to employees who commute to work using a hybrid or alternative fuel vehicle, while an increased number of bike racks encourage other forms of transportation.

Paladino Role

  • Green building consulting



Though significant investments were required to upgrade the property, National Geographic received tangible business benefits in return. According to a USGBC case study, an increase of $24 million in property value was gained, due to higher appraised value, ability to command higher tenant rates, lower waste disposal expenses, documented lower operating costs, improved credit rating and lower interest rates on debt instruments. With more efficient heating, cooling, and interior lighting systems, energy use was reduced by 8%-11%, significant savings for a company that was already proactively optimizing building energy use. In addition, water utility expenses were decreased by 18%.

LEED EB O&M Silver; first project certified in the LEED EB pilot.
Property increased in value by $24 million
Energy use reduced by 8-11% and water utility expenses decreased by 18%