Finland has once again proven itself as a pioneer in sustainable development—the Washington, D.C.-based Embassy of Finland just earned LEED Platinum certification, making it the first Platinum embassy in the U.S. A long-recognized landmark for sustainability, the Embassy of Finland has received numerous green awards over the years, and steadily and sustainably upgraded its facilities to achieve platinum. The only other LEED Platinum-certified embassy in the world is the U.S. Embassy in Finland’s capital of Helsinki.
Built in 1994 and designed by Finnish architects Mikko Heikkinen and Markku Komonen, the Finnish Embassy in Washington, D.C. became the first embassy in the U.S. to achieve an Energy Star award and gain LEED certification. Surrounded by a forest, the light-filled embassy evokes the image of a contemporary cottage in the woods and captures the essence of Finland with its simple, yet elegant design and use of local materials. When the push to green the building started in the mid-2000s, the embassy started small—beginning with changing out light bulbs for more energy-efficient alternatives—and gradually built up to upgrading all aspects of the building’s operations to fit LEED requirements, from adopting a rigorous green purchasing policy to encouraging its staff to take low-carbon transit.
Although the embassy already received LEED Gold in 2010, the embassy decided to strive for LEED Platinum when it came time for recertification. Thus, the building is equipped with energy-efficient automation and fixtures, and measures have been taken to reduce the use of electricity, gas, and water. The amount of waste and food waste generated has also been reduced. For example, instead of purchasing new furniture, the embassy opts to fix old furniture and has equipped tables with electronic legs so that staff members may adjust furniture heights to their liking. The only new furniture that has been purchased in the last five years are the 100% biodegradable furnishings used in the sauna.
The embassy also purchased enough Renewable Energy Credits to cover 100% of the facility’s total energy consumption. The building is equipped with a well-functioning stormwater system and uses a free-cooling system that halves the use of electricity-powered cooling. Three Jopo bicycles have been purchased for staff use.
Images via Embassy of Finland