Amazon’s $2.5b HQ Breaks Green Ceiling: World’s Top LEED Project

The world's largest retailer commits to Climate Pledge and will roll out sustainability initiatives across 40 global sites.

Tue 26 Mar 24


It’s official: Amazon’s US $2.5b HQ is the world’s largest project to get a LEED Platinum rating. With the tech giant using a mix of mass timber, low-carbon concrete, electrified energy operations, of green space to build one of the most impressive projects ever constructed.

Incidentally, the new headquarters, based at Arlington in Virginia, is part of a company-wide pledge to build and operate sustainably. Amazon is now looking to introduce building initiatives across its 40 global distribution sites.

“HQ2 serves as a blueprint for other projects,” according to Peter Templeton, president and CEO of the US Green Building Council, who confirmed that the LEED Platinum certification “is proof that Amazon is going above and beyond to ensure its workspaces are constructed and operated to the highest level of sustainability.”

Footage from the grand opening from stage 1 of Amazon’s new HQ in Arlington, Virginia. Footage courtesy of @fox5dc

The new HQ took two years to design and three years to construct, was opened last year and is the latest to embrace glue-laminated timber and low-carbon concrete as part of a project that saw more than 82% upcycled.

“All construction waste materials were diverted from landfills, including concrete, drywall, metals, wood, cardboard, and plastic,” Amazon said, with the process “keeping more than 17,000 tones of waste – more than four times the weight of the US Capital Dome – from entering landfill.”

Designed by ZGF— also behind Portland International Airport’s mass timber revival—and constructed by Clark Construction, the new Metropolitan Park campus uses low-carbon building materials on an industrial scale. Including ten 70-foot-long glue-laminated timber beams that support the ceiling and “create a warm, tactile, biophilic environment for Amazon stakeholders.”

Timber ceilings are a key feature of the design of the building. (Images courtesy of ZGF renders)

According to Brian Earle, lead architect for Metropolitan Park at ZGF, “While the wood creates a warm, inviting environment to the space,” od also absorbs carbon as it grows and continues to store that carbon throughout its material lifecycle in the building.”

“By using structural timber, we saw an opportunity to expand industry knowledge of the material in the region…Paving the way for its broader adoption in the future.” 

Brian Earle, lead architect for ZGF
The exposed glue-laminated shell during construction. (Photo Credit: Clark Construction)

In addition to mass timber, Amazon also used advanced low-carbon concrete mix design and CarbonCure, an investment by Amazon as part of its Climate Pledge Fund, which led to a 20% reduction in the carbon footprint of Met Park’s concrete structures compared to the industry baseline.

The low-carbon “CarbonCure” concrete mix was produced at a batch plant beside the site of the Amazon HQ. (Photo Credit: Miller & Long)

This technology, which has now been utilised across more than 40 of Amazon’s global sites, introduces recycled carbon dioxide into fresh concrete to reduce its carbon footprint without compromising performance.

According to Amazon, “Concrete makes up the largest portion of the project’s total embodied carbon footprint, making low-carbon concrete one of the most impactful ways to reduce emissions associated with the building itself.”

Footage courtesy of @CNBCtelevision

Energy-efficient “Eco-Lobbies” blur the indoor-outdoor transition. On nice days, large operable walls open into the park, and lush landscaping and natural materials help bring the outside in.

Passive design strategies, such as overhead high-volume, low-speed fans and hydronic radiant floor heating, create a thermally comfortable environment for occupants.

Energy-efficient “eco lobbies” create a thermal transition zone between the exterior and interior.(Images courtesy of ZGF renders)
Here are some highlights of the campus:
  • 100% powered by renewable energy.
  • 24% overall energy savings relative to a comparable new office building—enough electricity to power 572 homes in the US every year.
  • 20% reduction in the carbon footprint of Met Park’s concrete structures compared to the industry baseline—saving over 14,700 metric tons of carbon, or the equivalent of taking more than 3,200 cars off the road in the US for an entire year.

“Constructing buildings that can house thousands of employees daily while operating more efficiently—and not disrupting, but enhancing the natural environment—is no small feat. I’m proud of our teams’ work with HQ2 to make that a reality,” according to Kara Hurst, vice president for Worldwide Sustainability at Amazon.

“While it’s not always necessarily visible to our customers or communities, we’re working to decarbonise all of Amazon’s buildings—including our corporate offices, data centres, and fulfilment facilities—given the climate impact of the built environment,” Ms Hurst said.

“At HQ2, we challenged ourselves to push the limits of what’s possible regarding sustainable construction and design—and we’re proud to share these features with the northern Virginia community.”

The redevelopment of Met Park creates a vital amenity for use by Amazon employees and the surrounding community alike. (Images courtesy of ZGF renders)

Buildings account for nearly 40% of annual global CO2 emissions – leading a UN blueprint last year to report that conventional building materials like concrete, steel and aluminium are responsible for 23% of the world’s total emissions.

“Substituting carbon-intensive building materials, like steel and concrete, for bio-based materials including timber, bamboo, and biomass will save emissions by up to 40% by 2050,” according to a report published by the UN Environmental Programme, adding that “Priorities should be placed on electrifying production with renewable energy sources, increasing the use of reused and recycled materials, and scaling innovative technologies.”

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is a strong supporter of environmental causes, including a USD 1 billion commitment to combat climate change via the Earth Fund and a new endeavour aimed at halting deforestation and desertification by planting twenty million trees across Africa in an initiative known as ‘The Green Wall Initiative’.

In September 2021, Jeff Bezos announced the Bezos Earth Fund – a US $1b pledge to combat climate change. Footage courtesy of @BezosEarthFund

Now, Amazon is looking at ways to decarbonise its real estate portfolio to meet our Climate Pledge commitment, with Ms Hurst adding:

“We also know that if we can do this, we can help drive change across industries and propel us all forward in efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Met Park exemplifies carbon-reduction solutions and energy-efficiency enhancements that are possible today.”

The impact of green roofs and native plants

Beyond energy efficiency and carbon reduction, the new headquarters also embraces strong biophilic principles, including green roofs and native plantings where visitors and employees can connect with nature. 

Located along a major bird migratory corridor, Met Park considers impacts on local wildlife. The lower levels of glass include a dot frit pattern to improve visibility to birds, alerting them to a solid barrier and reducing the risk that they attempt to fly through.

Eight of the buildings’ 19 landscaped terraces provide amenities ranging from outdoor meeting spaces and dog runs to an urban farm. 

According to Ms Hurst, “On one of our terraces, the Amazon Horticulture team is leading a program that partners with a local organisation, Love and Carrots, to grow, produce, and deliver the product to a local nonprofit, Kitchen of Purpose.” Confirming that the roofs reduce energy consumption “swapping synthetic, waterproof materials with plant life.”

Green roofs are a key component of the US $2.5b final development. Footage courtesy of @adin

Conventional roofs and pavement also absorb sunlight, reducing pressure on the HVAC system by converting heat into energy.

“Green roofs and landscaping mitigate this effect through the naturally cooling functions of plants, reflecting solar energy and off-setting heat through evaporation,” Amazon said, adding that native and adaptive planting is conducive to Arlington’s variable climate.

“The landscaping uses native and adaptive plantings conducive to Arlington’s climate. It includes a wide variety of plants selected to attract local pollinator species. Additionally, soil mixes retain water and promote root growth.”


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    Wood Central is Australia’s first and only dedicated platform covering wood-based media across all digital platforms. Our vision is to develop an integrated platform for media, events, education, and products that connect, inform, and inspire the people and organisations who work in and promote forestry, timber, and fibre.


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