The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Philip Merrill Environmental Center


View from Southwest
Photo of the building and grounds
The exterior of the CBF headquarters is shown in this photograph from the southwest.
Credit: Photo by Prakash Patel, courtesy of SmithGroup
Rainwater Tanks
Photo of rainwater tanks on the building
The CBF headquarters uses only 10% as much water as a comparable building. Rainwater storage tanks are shown in this photo.
Credit: Photo by Prakash Patel, courtesy of SmithGroup
View from West
Photo of the building and surroundings
The headquarters is visible across the Chesapeake Bay in this photograph taken from the west.
Credit: Photo by Prakash Patel, courtesy of SmithGroup
The CBF lobby is shown in this photograph from the second floor.
Credit: Prakash Patel, courtesy SmithGroup
Photo of the outside of the building in fading sunlight
To decrease water use and runoff, a rainwater catchment system on the Philip Merrill Environmental Center, shown in this photo, captures rainwater for use in fire suppression and in the building's sinks.
Credit: Williamson, Robb
Interior view
Photo of the interior of the building
The interior of the Philip Merrill Environmental Center, shown here, is an open office and was constructed using materials made from renewable resources, such as cork, natural linoleum, and bamboo.
Credit: Williamson, Robb

General Information

Quick Facts


Annapolis, MD

Operating Hours

M-F 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM

Building Type

  • Education
  • Office

Total Floor Area

2,973 m2

Project Information

Project Owner

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Inc.

Occupant Type

Corporation, nonprofit

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, an environmental advocacy, restoration, and education organization, is headquartered in Annapolis, Maryland.

Environmental Aspects

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation Headquarters building is recognized as one of the "greenest" buildings ever constructed. Sustainability issues ranging from energy use to material selection were given serious consideration throughout design and construction of this facility. It was the first building to receive a Platinum rating through the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Rating System, version 1.0.

Indoor Spaces

  • 60% Office
  • 10% Conference
  • 9% Mechanical systems
  • 4% Other
  • 4% Circulation
  • 4% Lobby/reception
  • 3% Electrical systems
  • 2% Dining
  • 2% Restrooms

Outdoor Spaces

  • 40% Wildlife habitat
  • 10% Restored landscape
  • 10% Other
  • 5% Parking
  • 2% Drives/roadway
  • 2% Pedestrian/non-motorized vehicle path
  • 2% Interpretive Landscape
  • 1% Patio/hardscape

Location Details


6 Herndon Avenue, Annapolis, MD

Site context/setting



Typical Number of Permanent Occupants


Owner Occupied


Owner Type

Corporation, nonprofit

Average Hours Per Permanent Occupant


Details About Occupancy

This conventional office environment is open 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM. Weekend and evening functions are occasionally held at the Center.

Building Hours of Operation

M-F 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM

Ratings & Awards

U.S. Green Building Council LEED-NC,

2000, Platinum, CBF Merrill Environmental Center achieved additional "Innovation in Design" credits for "Low Water Use" and "Exceptional Energy Measures".

Green Building Challenge

2002, 2.7 in GB Tool 1.76, The Green Building (GB) Tool is an Excel 2000 spreadsheet building assessment tool, designed by the International Initiative for a Sustainable Built Environment (iiSBE). The research tool is still being revised/updated, and is primarily used for assessing

ASHRAE Technology Award


AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects


Business Week/Architectural Record Awards


AIA Washington, D.C., Chapter


NESEA Green Building Awards


Building Design & Construction Magazine


Building Details



Total Gross Floor Area 32,000 ft²

General Floor Area

Heated Floor Area 32,000 ft²
Cooled Floor Area 32,000 ft²


Building unit or complex: Described project is a single building
Number of Stories 2
Percent New 100%



December 2000

Architectural Details


In construction, the building incorporated a "cradle-to-cradle" rather than "cradle-to-grave" philosophy. This philosophy requires consideration of all materials not only for what they are made of, but what they can be made into at the end of their useful lives.

All existing structures on the construction site were recycled (concrete from original foundations is now being used as road bed fill, for example). Materials were selected for recycled content (galvanized siding made from cans, cars, and guns; interior fabrics; and rubber flooring). Likewise, materials from renewable or regenerable resources were incorporated (cork flooring comes from the bark of the cork oak tree which can be harvested without killing the tree and regenerates in 7 to 9 years). All wood was from renewable resources (the main foyer's bamboo flooring is harvested from plants that regrow in approximately 3 years).

Roof and wall enclosures use Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPS). These use high R-value insulating foam in place of conventional wood studs and rafters, resulting in a high performance building envelope using a fraction of the wood of conventionally framed structures. Parallel strand timber beams from new growth trees, harvested and quickly regenerated, provide timber stronger than conventional wood. More than 50 percent of the building materials came from a 300-mile radius to reduce environmental costs associated with travel.

Indoor Environment Quality

Indoor Environment

Indoor Environment Issues

Natural ventilation is used whenever possible, made more effective by a carbon dioxide monitor and automatically controlled operable windows. Additionally, efforts were made to limit the amount of toxic materials introduced to the indoor environment in the first place. VOC-free paints joined natural materials such as cork, linoleum, and bamboo in an effort to create a healthy working environment.

The building design incorporates extensive daylighting and appropriate shading as well as views of the Chesapeake Bay to maximize the visual comfort of employees.

Key findings from the Occupant Indoor Environmental Quality survey, interviews and discussion groups are as follows:

  • Occupants were highly satisfied with the Merrill Center building as a whole. In fact, the score for overall building satisfaction was the second highest in the entire CBE survey database.
  • Satisfaction with air quality was also very positive and represents the highest level of air quality satisfaction in the CBE database.
  • Close to 90% of the occupants were also satisfied with daylighting, the overall amount of light, and access to views.
  • Ratings for the psychosocial outcomes were also positive, with about 80% of the occupants experiencing high levels of morale, well being and sense of belonging at work.
  • Occupants have a strong sense of pride in the building, as indicted by the fact that 97% of survey respondents said they were proud to show the office to visitors.
  • Acoustical conditions were the most negatively rated, primarily due to distractions from people talking and loss of speech privacy associated with the highly open environment. Even so, the acoustics score was well above average in comparison with the CBE database.

Findings from the interviews and focus groups also provide additional insights about the psychosocial benefits of the building. Psychological benefits included sense of pride in the values conveyed by the building, a more positive overall workplace experience, and a strong connection to the natural environment. Social benefits included improved communication and sense of belonging as well as feelings of being treated in an egalitarian manner, especially regarding access to benefits of daylight and views.

Participants in the interviews and focus groups also felt that the building very strongly conveyed the mission and values of the Foundation. As one senior executive pointed out, the building's location on the edge of Chesapeake Bay allows everyone to "see what we are working on and what we are working for."

A content analysis of the interviews and discussion groups showed that 74% of the comments were of a positive nature, and 27% were about concerns or problems. The most frequently cited concerns were temperature conditions, noise distractions, insufficient meeting rooms, and glare from windows. The most frequently cited positive factors were the connection to nature and the Bay, the access to daylight and views, the openness of the space, the lunch room, and the overall aesthetics of the building.

Avoid carpet and other hard-to-clean floor surfaces near entry
Design entry to facilitate removal of dirt before entering building
Design open floor plans to allow exterior daylight to penetrate to the interior
Provide occupants with access to operable windows
Raise the building up on piers
Avoid wood products made with urea-formaldehyde binder
Specify prefinished wood or bamboo flooring
Use only very low or no-VOC paints
Use a comprehensive commissioning process to ensure that design intent is realized
Design isolated storage closet for cleaning and maintenance products


Design Process

    The U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Rating System was used in setting goals for the project before the design commenced. Benchmarking tours of other green projects and CBF's educational centers were influential in the design.

    A peer review of the concept design was organized by the Sustainable Building Industries Council (funded by the Department of Energy) and included reviewers from the Maryland Energy Administration, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, World Wildlife Fund and National Renewable Energy Laboratory. An integrated approach to design was used, and in-house engineers worked closely with architects.

    Construction administration was performed by the team architect already familiar with the design and project goals. The contractor did not have a lot of experience with the building systems and the green process, and the project might have benefited if the contractor shared the client's goals.

    The owner used the design team, rather than an independent third-party, as Commissioning Agent. As a result, the contractor felt that the Commissioning Agent could not be a neutral arbiter. The contractor had a difficult time understanding the intent of commissioning systems as opposed to testing individual pieces of equipment.

    CBF has done extensive work with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Department of Energy National Laboratory) to evaluate the performance of the building in terms of energy and resource efficiency.

    An in-depth post-occupancy evaluation of human factors in the building was published in April, 2005. An online survey and in-person interviews of Merrill Center occupants were used to collect the information. The online survey tool used is from the Center for the Built Environment at the University of California at Berkeley. A report summarizing the results is available.

Design Tools

General Modelling Information

  • Designing Low-Energy Buildings with Energy-10 (DLEB/E-10) software was used for energy analysis.

Lessons Learned

Discuss goals that were met and goals that were not achieved, and the reasons for these outcomes

The project's primary goal was to lead by example and to encourage sustainable development within the Mid-Atlantic region. The Center hosts several tours each week during which groups of architects, government officials, developers, contractors, students, and environmentalists from around the world witness the building's aggressive environmental strategies in action. The Center has been the focus of numerous research studies, including a study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the viability of Natural Ventilation in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States; a study on the effects of Indoor Environmental Quality on worker productivity; and continuous monitoring by the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory.



How the Project was Financed

Funds for the building were raised through a special building campaign and private donations. No money came from regular membership revenues. The total outlay for the building over the term of its loan is less than the client would pay in rent for a similarly sized facility. The total cost for the project, including land acquisition, savings from easements, and the sale of existing properties, is $11.6 million.

Total Project Cost


Project Costs

Property Acquisition Costs


Project Costs

Professional Fee: $0 $/ft2 Management Fee: $0 $/ft2 Financing : $0 $/ft2 Site Work: $ $/ft2 Construction: $ $/ft2 Tenant Improvements : $ $/ft2


Estimated payback time of any investment in measures needed to reach zero net energy

Of the $199/ft2 cost for building construction, roughly $46/ft2 are directly attributable to premiums spent for green measures. This initial investment will pay for itself within 7-8 years through reduced operations costs.

Financing Mechanisms

Procurement process
  • Design-bid-build

General Energy


Energy Use

Energy issues were considered in the design of the Headquarters. The building was sited in order to take advantage of southern solar exposure as well as prevailing winds for natural ventilation. Daylighting is emphasized by large windows, clerestories, and an open interior design.

The south wall of the center uses photovoltaic panels to produce energy on-site. Solar panels on the roof heat water for indoor use. Geothermal wells are used for heating in the winter and cooling in the summer.

A sophisticated total energy management system monitors and controls energy use in the building. The system alerts employees when windows should be opened. Other windows are opened and closed automatically. The system also monitors daylight levels, adjusting electric lighting as needed.

Energy Datasets

Dataset NameYearTypePurchased Energy (kBtu/ft²)
Actual--end-use metering2003Actual--end-use metering37.05
Actual utility bills - 20132013Actual--utility bills37.29


Project Team

Greg Mella
SmithGroup, Inc.
Project architect and publicist
Geoff Oxnam
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Greenman-Pedersen, Inc.
Civil engineer
Clark Construction Group
Janet Harrison
J. Harrison Architect
LEED coordinator
Paul Torcellini
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Energy monitoring and evaluation
Karene Motivans
Landscape architect
Shemro Engineering, Inc.
Structural engineer
SmithGroup, Inc.

Site Information


Total Building Site Area

1,372,140 ft²

Building Footprint Area

13,700 ft²

Land Use Description

To encourage responsible methods of transportation in its work force, and specifically to decrease the amount of nitrogen oxides washing into the Chesapeake Bay, the Foundation has implemented incentives for staff to bicycle or carpool to work. Bike racks, showers, and changing rooms are available for bikers, walkers, and runners. Free battery charging encourages the use of electric cars. The Center also owns and makes available bicycles and a hybrid car. Finally, amenities such as videoconferencing and telecommuting connections, as well as breakfast and lunch facilities, are available on-site.

Provide for electric vehicle charging
Provide incentives for non-automobile commuting options
Provide showers and changing areas for bicycle and pedestrian commuters
Provide storage area for bicycles
Assess property for integration with local community and regional transportation corridors
Avoid building on a flood-prone property
Avoid contributing to sprawl
Avoid developing prime agricultural land
Select already-developed sites for new development

Provide for electric vehicle charging
Provide incentives for non-automobile commuting options
Provide showers and changing areas for bicycle and pedestrian commuters
Provide storage area for bicycles
Assess property for integration with local community and regional transportation corridors
Avoid building on a flood-prone property
Avoid contributing to sprawl
Avoid developing prime agricultural land
Select already-developed sites for new development

Provide for electric vehicle charging
Provide incentives for non-automobile commuting options
Provide showers and changing areas for bicycle and pedestrian commuters
Provide storage area for bicycles
Assess property for integration with local community and regional transportation corridors
Avoid building on a flood-prone property
Avoid contributing to sprawl
Avoid developing prime agricultural land
Select already-developed sites for new development

Provide for electric vehicle charging
Provide incentives for non-automobile commuting options
Provide showers and changing areas for bicycle and pedestrian commuters
Provide storage area for bicycles
Assess property for integration with local community and regional transportation corridors
Avoid building on a flood-prone property
Avoid contributing to sprawl
Avoid developing prime agricultural land
Select already-developed sites for new development

Site Description

Site and water were given special consideration at the Foundation Headquarters.

The building was sited in a manner consistent with Maryland's Smart Growth criteria, on the footprint of the existing buildings. Some existing pavement was removed as parking space was moved underground, resulting in an increase in pervious surface.

Native landscaping is important to the organization, and habitats ranging from wetlands to an oyster reef are currently being restored on-site.

The center captures and reuses rainwater and uses a bioretention filter to treat oil and other pollutants in runoff from the pervious parking area.

Efforts were made through landscaping and exterior material choices to minimize the heat island potential of the project. Additionally, light pollution is minimized by the use of timers on exterior lights.

The center employs composting toilets in place of conventional flush toilets. When combined with other water-efficient appliances and native landscaping, the result is a 90+% reduction in water use over an otherwise comparable conventional office building.

Replant damaged sites with native vegetation
Landscape with plants that provide wildlife forage or habitat
Plant trees to shade parked vehicles

Site Conditions

  • Previously undeveloped land
  • Previously developed land
  • Wetlands
  • Lake/pond
  • Running water
  • Sensitive habitat
  • Preexisting structure(s)



Water Use / Conservation Description

Install gravel paving in a matrix to retain permeability
Use planted swales instead of curbs and gutters
Design a constructed wetland for pollutant removal from stormwater
Select plants for drought tolerance
Use composting toilets
Use automatic faucet controls for lavatories
Collect and store rainwater for uses in building



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