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Details will elevate the repositioned 1800 K Street to trophy class

Located a block west of both the Farragut North and West Metro stations in Washington, D.C., the property at 1800 K Street NW might not appear to need renovation. The building boasts a very contemporary glass façade, after all. But that’s all it is, a façade. A 2006 renovation involved little more than slapping a new glass skin on the exterior.

When a major tenant moved out, the building owners (RREEF Real Estate Investment Trust acquired the property in 2006) decided to make the Class A property even more desirable. CBRE, which provides landlord representation and leasing services for the owner, announced plans to give the 217,070-square-foot building a trophy-class transformation, repositioning it for high-end tenants such as law firms and corporate clients and hired VOA as design architect for the project.

The $40 million, 16 -month repositioning currently underway is designed to boost the building’s square footage and lease rate while preserving or elevating its LEED Silver sustainability rating. Work is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2016. Adding a layer of complexity to the project, the repositioning of the commercial office will take place without displacing its tenants, and with minimal disruption, ensuring that the property will continue generating income throughout.

As a repositioning/reuse project, 1800 K Street is inherently sustainable. We expect it to earn Silver certification or better under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Existing Buildings standard.

The first phase of the project is focused on reorientating and upgrading the central plant, elevators and mechanical systems. Core mechanicals including the chillers, major air handler and the air tower were upgraded. Two main chillers were replaced with the latest frictionless centrifugal units, which will provide years of energy savings for the client. In the case of the heating system however, designers kept the building’s fan coil unit system for its efficiency.


In the second phase, the building’s existing curtainwall and precast concrete façade will be removed and an all glass system installed. The new high-performance building skin will extend from floor to ceiling fronting both K and 18th streets. VOA helped the client navigate the process of obtaining the zoning variance required for attaching the new curtain wall. New windows on the southern façade will create additional views and additional desirable office space, making it more marketable.


Features such as the penthouse terrace at 1800 K Street NW elevate it to trophy class

The changing workplace dictates that offices use space more efficiently. Top companies demand space that fits their needs and budgets. At 1800 K Street, a reoriented central core on the 20,000 square-foot floor plate will enable law firms and other organizations to achieve more efficient layouts and Trophy quality spaces. Design alterations to the floor plate and exterior glass create additional square footage on every floor. A glass storefront for the ground level will be accompanied by sidewalk and hardscape improvements.


The building’s high-end appeal will be enhanced by a new penthouse terrace. The main lobby will be renovated including elevator and finish upgrades. Building tenants will enjoy their own fitness center. The building’s most eye-catching feature will wrap around its exterior just above the first level. “We’re installing an LED screen on the outside of the building. It’s a substantial investment, and is meant to be an art piece. It calls attention to the building,” says Todd Combs of the 300 linear feet of LED screen space. “We went to Yankee Stadium to review the comparable product,” he adds. The screen will display a dynamic blend of images, graphics and streaming content. The main lobby will feature a vertically-oriented video art piece displaying art and information, news, weather, local events and welcoming new tenants while physically dividing the staircase to the parking level from walkway.

Vertically-oriented video art in the main lobby

Vertically-oriented video art in the main lobby

The attention to detail which suffuses the entire design is particularly evident in the elevator lobby’s sleek modern feel. “Traditionally, in an elevator lobby, there are a lot of signs, plaques, call buttons, hall lanterns and notices. We integrated all of these requirements and had them printed in a film to be laminated between two glass panels. The result is very minimalistic and non-obtrusive. It is like using glass lamination and a custom design process (digital printing) to solve a lot of technical requirements with a sense of ease and simplicity. It’s minimalistic, but everything is integrated,” says Franck LeBousse.

Various structural modifications were required to accommodate the street grade entry and the roof terrace in the design. The latest structural support techniques and carbon fiber material is employed in various areas to support the structural integrity of the slab while preserving desirable ceiling heights. The beauty of the repositioned 1800 K Street will be more than skin-deep. It’s designed to be like a new building and to compete like one in the D.C. real estate market. “It’s a very classic trophy building for D.C. The amenities and choice of material match the higher end of the commercial market here. We added a touch of sophistication. The guts of the building are very well thought out, which makes everything else possible. Ultimately, it will look high tech and classic at the same time,” says Franck Le Bousse.

Size: 210,000 square feet
Team: John Jessen, Franck Le Bousse, Todd Combs, Sara Trigo, Sean McManus, Zahira Crespo and Chris Pilla

Download the complete Design Quarterly Fall 2014.

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