Owned and operated by Ark Restaurants, the Sequoia restaurant, is a well-established destination dining institution in Washington, DC. MRP Real Estate Services Group, which manages the property owned by Washington Harbour Owner, LLC, presented Ark Restaurants with an opportunity to re-imagine the restaurant’s 26,600 square foot space in 2016. In June of 2017, the restaurant reopened with a bold new design by New York based interior designers, Jeffery Beers International with GTM Architects as Architect of Record. Sequoia is a two-story restaurant with a first-floor bar, banquet room, and four tiers of outdoor terrace dining looking out at the Potomac River.
When Sequoia debuted in June 1990, it inherited equipment and systems that were state of the art at the time, but by 2016 were ready for an update. The redesign was also the perfect chance to modernize the lighting and dimming equipment, chillers, and kitchen equipment, while refreshing the space design.
Ark and MRP agreed that they had the potential to introduce something completely new through a significant renovation. In addition to giving the design and engineering teams a chance to improve upon the existing layout, the project would generate excitement for the restaurant and its surrounding community.
Creating an art dining mecca
In addition to its location and menu, Sequoia is known for its ambitious commitment to contemporary art and artists. At Sequoia, art is more than decoration – it is used to stimulate the dining experience. Ark intended to push the role of art in the restaurant even further with lighting, furniture, and other design elements driven by artists. Ark, guided by CEO Michael Weinstein, solicited a collaboration of artists including mural artist David Higginbotham, Japanese artist Hitoshi Kuriyama; Isidro Blasco to create a custom 3D collage; and legendary sculpture artist, Arne Quinze, to design an exterior neon light sculpture.
“Our thought was that this dining concept is a contemporary restaurant with contemporary art,” said Ark CEO, Michael Weinstein, “We promise quality, value, and respect for our customers, and we put a lot of effort and thought into creating an amazing experience that is also sustainable.”
Navigating the DC Green Code
Because Sequoia is larger than 10,000 square feet, it was required to adhere to the DC Green Code, which has specific sustainability targets that particularly focus on energy use, air quality, material selection and waste management. While the Ark team and GTM Architects embrace sustainability as a value, they did not have the specific hands-on experience navigating DC Green Code, and needed a consultant to assist them.
“It was critical that the sustainability requirements for the project worked hand in hand with the design, and that one never compromised the other,” said Molly Heffner, Project Architect with GTM Architects.
Molly Heffner, Project Architect for GTM Architects added, “Paladino had helped us with sustainability strategies before, and it made sense to bring them on board for Sequoia, given their extensive experience with DC’s increasingly complex Green Codes.”
Paladino was engaged to collaborate with GTM Architects and Rand Construction Corporation to fully manage the DC Green Code compliance effort; and to ensure that the sustainability features that were incorporated in the design made it into Rand’s contract documents. Paladino was regularly onsite to evaluate the project for green attributes and installations, and Paladino coordinated with DC’s Department of Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), which oversees green code compliance, acting as a conduit between the DCRA and the Sequoia project team.
Paladino assisted Rand to make sure that the green design elements that were developed for the owner were realized in the field as construction activities progressed. Paladino also ensured that the site and team were ready for the two DCRA green code inspectors and site visits, which occur at wall close-in and at final. Then Paladino walked with the project team and DCRA Green Code inspector to facilitate the inspection by the DCRA.
“Paladino assisted in preparing the site for inspections. They also provided submittal review services to confirm that all proposed materials would meet the Green Code requirements,” said Heffner.
Understandably, most artists are not accustomed to regulatory compliance processes. And because these artist suppliers aren’t typical mass-scale manufacturers, additional processes were needed to ensure that Ark could deliver the aesthetic experience they envisioned, while the restaurant also met Green Code standards.
Paladino worked with the project team to confirm that the materials they used to construct their art were in compliance with the code, and to find alternatives in those cases where they were not. Every discussion linked back to the ultimate priority, which was to deliver an exceptional dining experience for every visitor.
For example, the wall murals, designed by artist David Higginbotham used a unique and beautiful combination of graphite and epoxy, resulting in a moody and ethereal finish. Paladino collaborated with Molly Heffner of GTM to confirm the materials and find alternatives that would honor the artist’s vision, while also ensuring that Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) requirements were met.
Further, the restaurant invested in highly efficient state-of-the-art kitchen appliances. Some of which were so new-to-market that they hadn’t yet achieved their ENERGY STAR rating, despite being within compliance standards. Paladino worked closely with the project team and the DCRA to confirm the equipment’s compliance as part of the overall DC Green Code effort.
Additional sustainability strategies included:
- Update lighting to LED throughout
- Transition from on-site chillers to leased condensed water from the building
- Upgrade and modernize kitchen equipment with ENERGY STAR compliant equipment
- Low VOC paints, coating, adhesives, sealants, composite woods, flooring systems, ceiling and wall systems and insulation
The Sequoia opened its interior in June 2017 and celebrated its full re-opening in September, and it’s estimated that it will experience sustainability outcomes including:
- 97.1 percent of demo/construction waste was diverted from the landfill
- Lighting design exceeds code requirements by 54%
“This was a joy to work on because the Ark team clearly puts their heart and soul into the dining experience,” said Paladino CEO, Tom Paladino. “Every person who eats at the Sequoia will benefit from the team’s effort. It shows that sustainability and compliance can actually enhance a design, and ultimately improve the guest experience.”