Dominion Energy’s urban headquarters is a 20-story addition in downtown Richmond, Virginia. Rated for LEED Gold, the tower is a new locus for collaboration that brings employees together and is a draw for others into the Central Business District and the city. With the potential to dramatically alter the downtown skyline, as well as pedestrian patterns with the urban core, the goal of the project was to balance the impact on both the macro-and micro-scale and create a welcoming new address in all three dimensions.
Previously dispersed among 20 different facilities around the greater metro area, the client wished to bring together team members in a centralized location. The new environment offers high-end amenities and creates flexible scaled spaces that entice employees to come together, with the goal of optimizing collaboration, improving engagement and productivity, and aiding in recruitment. A pedestrian-oriented streetscape connects with the tower’s ground-floor retail, which provides on-site amenities for tenants and adds to the neighborhood density.
At the third level, a one-acre coastal meadow roof garden is a strong draw for team members. Linked by meandering pathways, spaces include outdoor dining, a fitness area, and an event lawn. The dynamic outdoor garden encourages employees to take a break, focus on their well-being, and connect with nature. Arbor structures offer shaded sitting areas and a 1/8-mile walking path around the perimeter of the roof winds through botanical and native planting, punctuated by a site-specific sculptural installation. The Corten steel object is weathered with a natural patina and mimics an organic boulder from the James River. In addition, a yoga deck and games area create a much-needed break during the day and an opportunity for respite or socializing.
Everything for the project was designed to intentionally blend the workplace, architecture, and company vision for health and wellness. The planting and materials are native to the region, and respond to the local climate, and other environmental conditions. The landscape architect developed the project’s planting schedule in collaboration with local horticulturalists and plant experts, along with research collected from multiple sources, including the city’s Urban Design Guidelines; the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, “Native Plants for Piedmont and Coastal Plain Regions” and “Native Plants for Northern Virginia.”
The street trees surrounding the building are Nuttall Oaks, a Red Oak variety that has been developed to withstand challenging urban conditions in the city. Windows all around allow natural light to fill the workspace, empowering employees to connect with nature and providing 360-degree views. Full-service dining, a fitness, and a conference center are located on the roof garden level and seamlessly blend into the outdoor space, with its great views of downtown and the James River.
Despite its highly sought-after location, the site has many physical challenges. The city has a combined sewer overflow issue. The landscape architect and civil engineer completed a thorough study to understand the water management issues and determine a plan for designing a landscape that helps capture, store, slow, and reduce the stormwater overflow into the river and city system.
Stormwater runoff mitigation is a primary benefit of a green rooftop garden. The roof garden has not only reduced a significant amount of stress on the city’s storm sewer system but has also filtered and purified stormwater, preventing nitrogen and other pollutants from entering the watershed. The roof garden’s 22 plant types require much less irrigation because they are native, and nursery recommended adaptives. This plant palette is all low water use plants and combined with the efficient drip irrigation system, results in a 70% irrigation reduction. The planting also considerably slows and reduces stormwater runoff from entering the watershed, providing a 47% runoff reduction compared to the pre-developed site. In addition, each of the 138 planted canopy trees can intercept up to 7,000 gallons of rainfall and sequester 120 pounds of carbon dioxide per year.
The project fosters habitat creation, creating a spot for butterflies, bees, and birds in the urban center. It minimizes pesticide and fertilizer use by leaving nutrient-rich plant trimming on-site and allows plants to follow the seed to flower life cycle. The soil profile was also considered during plant selection, especially with minimum amounts of soil depth for the gardens on the roof.
The design is influenced heavily by the new modern workplace and the colors and materials, which are so closely associated with Dominion Energy’s Virginia roots. The tower is a model for environmental and social sustainability and is an example of expanding the idea of employee health and wellness to a larger lens that provides immediate benefits to the city, overall climate, and the company.
Pickard Chilton (Design Architect)
Kendall/Heaton Associates (AOR)
PDR Corporation (Interiors)
Magnusson Klemencic Associates (Structural Engineer)
Timmons Group (Civil Engineer)
Alvine Engineering (MEP)
Hourigan / Clayco (Contractor)
Project Location: Richmond, VA
Design year: 2016-2017
Year Built: 2016-2019