Amazon HQ2 in Virginia: Green Buildings Surrounded by Nature

A rendering of Amazons proposed PenPlace headquarters campus

A rendering of Amazon’s proposed PenPlace headquarters campus in Arlington, VA

With one building cluster already under construction at the Amazon HQ2 site in Arlington, Virginia, Amazon recently unveiled plans for an adjoining group of four buildings on 11 acres. The 22-story buildings will provide 3.3 million square feet of office space for up to 16,000 Amazon staffers. The company hopes to complete the new project at PenPlace, near the Pentagon, by 2025.

Focused on Sustainability

Dedicated to achieving sustainability in its buildings and operations, Amazon has pledged to reach net-zero-carbon status by 2040. The company is also a leading sponsor of the Carbon Leadership Forum, a business group advocating the elimination of embodied carbon in buildings. Amazon honors its commitment at PenPlace with a plan that focuses on green buildings and the natural environment to benefit both employees and the community.

The PenPlace office buildings are designed to attain LEED Platinum certification, the U.S. Green Building Council’s highest specification for sustainable development. The Platinum designation encourages architects to address a wide variety of sustainability issues, such as:

  • reducing embodied carbon through recycled and locally sourced materials;
  • controlling sources of indoor pollutants;
  • reducing energy and water consumption; and
  • promoting the use of fuel-efficient vehicles and bicycles.

Regarding energy usage, both the buildings and their HVAC systems will be all-electric, powered by renewable energy from a new solar farm located some 250 miles away in rural Virginia. Amazon procured the renewable-energy source in collaboration with Arlington County. The solar energy enables PenPlace meet Amazon’s net-zero-carbon commitment and comply with Arlington’s Community Energy Plan.

An Emphasis on Nature

Unlike 20th-century office parks dominated by cars and concrete, the PenPlace campus will emphasize open and natural areas around its buildings. All auto and service-vehicle traffic will be directed underground, to 2,100 parking spaces and loading areas. The parking area will also include electric-vehicle recharging stations.

At street level, PenPlace will feature broad pedestrian walkways, and protected cycling lanes to allow employees to ride bikes around the campus. Retail pavilions for shops, restaurants and a farmers’ market will be situated alongside the buildings, opening the campus to the surrounding neighborhood. An open-air amphitheater will make possible outdoor concerts and nighttime movie showings. A dog-walking park and gardens planted with trees and native-Virginia flora – watered by rainwater runoff – will complete the mixed-use outdoor environment.

Pen Place

PenPlace will include ample local vegetation and broad walkways – even a dog park

A Double-Helix Centerpiece

Though Amazon HQ2 employees will spend most of their days working in the office buildings, they’ll also have access to the spiraling glass tower. “The Helix at our Arlington headquarters will offer a variety of alternative work environments for Amazon employees amidst lush gardens and flourishing trees native to the region,” says John Schoettler, Amazon’s VP for Global Real Estate and Facilities.

A striking centerpiece, the structure is inspired by the spiral design of seashells and the double-helix DNA pattern found in every living cell. The building will include a meeting area for up to 1,500 people, alternative workspaces, and indoor gardens. Walking trails covered with trees and local plants will follow its corkscrew design, to provide workers an opportunity for refreshing strolls up and down a wooded hillside plus a fine neighborhood vista. Amazon may also allow public access on weekends.

Reflecting on the headquarters project, Schoettler says, “My ultimate dream for HQ2 is to create an amazing place for Amazon employees. We want it to be vibrant and…something the community at large can be proud of.”

The video below provides more information about Amazon’s PenPlace vision, including the design process and other contributions toward improving quality of life in the local Arlington community.