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Arthur J. Altmeyer Federal Building

Woodlawn, Maryland

The Arthur J. Altmeyer Federal Building has long stood as the heart of the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) campus in Woodlawn, Maryland. The ten-story, concrete-framed building is home to SSA’s executive leadership team, houses the campus boiler plant in its lower level, and has had no major alterations since its construction in 1959. With a poorly insulated building envelope and an interior layout that was inefficient in occupant density and access to natural light, the building was overdue for an upgrade.

In collaboration with a multidisciplinary team including HGA, Studio NYL, and OLIN, the Snow Kreilich team designed a high-performance and cost-effective façade of unitized anodized aluminum curtainwall framing and low-e insulated glazing, with applied frit that factored in solar heat gain, maximized views for employees, and ensured every interior workspace benefited from daylight.

The building’s outward expression is no longer one of foreboding cast concrete but is now defined by transparency and restraint. The surrounding landscape and solar orientation are used to enhance this expression and contribute to the building’s performance as a sustainable, healthy, and comfortable workplace. Meanwhile, the retrofit avoided creating unnecessary waste streams by maintaining the building’s original concrete structure and campus boiler plant, thus placing more pressure on the new envelope to enhance energy performance. As it happened, the building’s nearly true-north orientation provided a wealth of opportunities to maximize efficiencies.

Tuning the façade’s glazing for energy performance and glare control simultaneously enhanced occupant comfort and concentrated glazing along the north-facing side. Acoustic performance in private offices and conference areas was improved through the use of laminated glass, structural slab on deck walls, and sound masking in open work areas. Overall, this high-performance retrofit has increased the building’s occupant density, yielded a healthier and more satisfying workplace experience, and saved the SSA millions of dollars in the process.

The Arthur J. Altmeyer Building satisfies five principles of the AIA Framework for Design Excellence: Design for Integration, Design for Resources, Design for Well-being, Design for Economy, and Design for Energy.