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U.S. Embassy in Madagascar Certified as “Green” Building

By Lauren Monsen | Staff Writer | 29 March 2012
U.S. embassy building surrounded by landscaping (State Dept.)

The newly constructed U.S. Embassy in Antananarivo, Madagascar, has earned LEED certification at the silver level for its environmental efficiency and sustainability.

Washington — The newly constructed U.S. Embassy in Antananarivo, Madagascar, has been awarded the silver level of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification by the Green Building Certification Institute, making it the first building in Madagascar to earn LEED certification.

LEED certification is the recognized standard for measuring building sustainability and environmentally responsible design. LEED-certified buildings are designed to lower operating costs while increasing asset value, to reduce waste sent to landfills, to conserve energy and water, to be healthier and safer for occupants, and to reduce harmful greenhouse-gas emissions.

According to the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO), the embassy in Antananarivo is not just the first building in Madagascar to be LEED-certified. It’s also one of only five LEED-certified buildings in Africa, four of which are U.S. diplomatic facilities.

The State Department now mandates that all new U.S. embassies be built in accordance with “green” standards, and these buildings must earn LEED certification.

As OBO explained in a March 27 media note, the Madagascar embassy has many features that contribute to its light environmental footprint.

“The embassy was designed to reduce energy costs by incorporating sun shades for the façade, occupancy sensors and solar hot water,” said OBO. “The building conserves water through the installation of low-flow plumbing fixtures. All consumed water is treated at an on-site wastewater treatment plant. The cleansed water is re-used for irrigation and infiltrated on-site, replenishing the groundwater.”

LEED certification of new U.S. embassies, while very important, is not the only design requirement imposed by the State Department. Landscaping of embassy grounds is carefully planned, as well, said Beth Kempton, OBO’s technology manager for energy and sustainable design.

“OBO’s design standards require landscape designers to use native or locally well-adapted plantings to vegetate the site,” she said. “Additional consideration is given for drought-tolerant plantings.”

In Antananarivo, the new embassy is situated at Point Liberty, a sustainable site planted with native and adaptive species, including large canopy and medium-height trees, palm trees, shrubs, ground covers and ornamental grasses.

Also, the embassy was built using materials with high quantities of recycled content. Inside, “low-emitting materials were selected to reduce potential off-gassing after installation,” OBO said in an informational brochure. “Adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings and furniture systems all contain low quantities of volatile organic compounds.”

Electric traction elevators were installed, along with variable-frequency drives for pumps, fans and motors. Moreover, the embassy’s building managers optimize performance by using “an automation system that allows the building to dynamically respond to the local climate,” OBO added.

The Madagascar embassy joins U.S. embassies and consulates in Sofia, Bulgaria; Panama City, Panama; Johannesburg, South Africa; Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo; and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, as LEED-certified diplomatic facilities.

OBO, which describes its mission as providing “more secure, safer, more functional and well-maintained facilities for the conduct of U.S. diplomacy and the promotion of U.S. interests worldwide,” oversees the design of U.S. diplomatic facilities under the State Department’s Capital Security Construction Program.

Since 1999, OBO has completed 88 new diplomatic facilities and has an additional 41 projects under way in design and construction. “These facilities should represent American values and the best in American architecture, engineering, technology, sustainability, art, culture and construction execution,” said OBO.

The U.S. Embassy in Madagascar was constructed by B.L. Harbert International of Birmingham, Alabama, and designed by Page Southerland Page of Arlington, Virginia. Mechanical, electrical and plumbing design was completed by H&A Architects and Engineers of Glen Allen, Virginia.

For more information about LEED certification of U.S. embassies and the State Department’s commitment to “green” design, visit the OBO Web page on the department’s website.