NPR’s LEED Gold Headquarters A Radio Nerd’s Dream

I know it’s cliche to care about the environment and listen to National Public Radio (NPR), but I can’t help it. As a kid, I used to love listening to All Things Considered on the way back from piano lessons. Now, we see how long we can maintain Weekend Edition and Car Talk before static cuts in on our way up to the ski slopes.

If, like me, you’ve got secret nerd-crushes on Ira Glass and Steve Inskeep, getting the chance to step inside the NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. may seem like a fantasy, but it’s not. Built in the shadow of the capital, the newly completed complex is open for free public tours each weekday, and there are lots of green features to be excited about.

NPR LEED Headquarters

Image via NPR/Stephen Voss

The 400,000 sq. foot campus, which has been open since April, may not be as headline-worthy as Facebook’s hydro-powered data center or the Apple’s UFO campus in California, but that doesn’t mean it’s not pretty high-tech in its own right. As the organization’s world headquarters, NPR News, digital, NPR Music, technical, and administrative staff. It is also the center of a network of 17 domestic bureaus, 17 international bureaus, and a partner to Member Stations broadcasting NPR programs. According its own description, the NPR home base is “open, flexible, cost efficient, collaborative” and “designed to meet public radio’s needs for generations to come.”

The edifice, designed by DC-based firm Hickok Cole Architects, was intended to earn a LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. To that end, the building features a green roof (complete with urban bee hives), a highly efficient cooling system, and a system that captures street run-off within the tree-pits adjacent to North Capitol Street.

Outside you’ll also fine a bike rack capable of holding 72 bikes, and a parking garage complete with plug-ins for electric vehicles. Not too shabby for a partially converted warehouse that use to be a phone-booth workshop.

1 Comment

  • Reply July 3, 2013


    A local VP of News & Programming at a DC commercial station, WTOP, had green envy about the building, evidently confusing himself and his station as a similar operation, not that I have ever experienced a commercial broadcaster to have even a primer-based knowledge of public broadcasting. He thought that it was his tax dollars that funded the building when his commercial media was having to be austere. I could write a thesis on how wrong he was in so many ways but I’ll make just one point. His commercial airwaves (read: spectrum) belong to the public and his owner was granted a trusteeship (license) to use public spectrum to make a profit with no longer having much of any public interest standard to interfere with programming. A commercial station’s version of “news” is so warped in today’s world and its needs that he should be a major donor to insure NPR’s additional success so his station can draw a pass on what it should be programming.
    Overall, NPR has a building it needs and deserves and it was built with very little of the King’s shilling, as he would call it.

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