June 08, 2020

Virginia Design-Build Honors Local Tradition with Sustainable Design

Located in Winchester, Virginia, the Central Records Complex, which Clark delivered to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) earlier this year, lies in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. A 256,000-square-foot design-build project, the landscaping of this state-of-the-art records and technology facility is purposefully designed to celebrate the region’s rich apple history. With plentiful apple orchards that serve a functional and aesthetic purpose, the Central Records Complex honors local tradition with a sustainable design.

Known colloquially as “the apple basket of America” since the 1700s, Winchester is one of the largest apple exporters in the United States and the largest producing region of apples in Virginia. It is also known for the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, an annual 10-day festival held each spring to celebrate the blooming apple trees.

“To celebrate the history of the Shenandoah Valley, and to pay homage to Winchester’s annual apple blossom festival, we planted over 100 crabapple trees in orchard rows at the site,” said Bill Blanski, vice president at HGA and lead designer on the Central Records Complex project. “The apple orchards move east to west through the site, and will create a memorable, picturesque image when they reach full bloom.”

In an early pursuit presentation, Blanski brought an apple to the meeting. Setting it on the table in front of the GSA team, he explained how the Clark design-build team would weave the local history and apple culture of Winchester into the design of the Central Records Complex.

Indigenous to Virginia, the crabapple tree has a rich local history. (One variant, the Hewes Virginia Crabapple, was even grown by both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson during the 18th century.) With over 100 trees throughout the site, the team needed to be sure that caring for the trees – and namely, harvesting apples – did not become an overwhelming burden to the ground maintenance operation at the Central Records Complex. To solve this challenge, the team chose a specific species that keeps its fruit on branches throughout the year. The trees offer an additional element of sustainability to the site by creating a new and plentiful food source for birds.

From conception, a sustainable facility was one of the major project goals for the Central Records Complex. In addition to seeking LEED Gold certification, the facility is also designed to achieve Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) Silver certification through its landscaping. A complement to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED green building rating system, the overarching goals of SITES include fostering resiliency, mitigating climate change, and enhancing human wellbeing.