subscribe to ENR magazine subscribe
contact us
careers industry jobs
events events
Dodge Data & Analytics
ENR Logo
Web access will be provided
as part of your subscription.

Best Government/Public Buildings: New NOAA Center Interacts With Weather

Text size: A A
Photo by Alan Karchmer
Photo by Alan Karchmer
----- Advertising -----

To design the new Center for Weather & Climate Prediction for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, HOK turned its eyes to the sky. The 285,000-sq-ft facility is organized into three curved, cascading wings intended to resonate with workers and their mission.

"They look at natural patterns all day, curving and swirling forms," says Roger Schwabacher, senior associate, HOK, Washington. "The design reflects the work they do."

The facility includes a 500-seat auditorium, conference center, library, cafeteria, fitness center, multiple laboratories, 10,000-sq-ft data center, forecasting areas, media room and office space.

Designed to achieve LEED-Silver certification, the facility features a unitized curtain wall with custom exterior sunshades, a five-story atrium and green roofs on approximately two-thirds of the building.

Among its most unique features is a four-story waterfall that transfers rainwater from the membrane roofs to onsite bio-retention gardens. The feature was designed to utilize 30 stainless steel cables, attached with turnbuckles at the top and bottom, to guide the water like a "rain chain" from the rooftop scupper down to a perforated, precast concrete basin in the garden.

Careful studies by the design team took into account the water volume and flow rate from the roof and the capabilities of the bio-retention area to absorb the water. However, once it came time to build the feature, designers and contractors had to collaborate to fine-tune it. The flow rate from the large, steeply canted roof was initially too fast and needed to be modified with roof diverters. The four-story waterfall was not fully contained by the cables and sprayed on the curtain wall. The construction team solved the problem by narrowing the scupper's opening to the cables to better direct the flow downward.

Other features include a wind sculpture, pedestrian plazas, walkways and a 700-car parking garage.

"Many elements of the design interact with the weather," Schwabacher says. "When it rains, the waterfall flows. When the wind blows, the sculpture is activated."

NOAA Center for Weather & Climate Prediction Riverdale Park, Md.

Key Players

General Contractor: Skanska USA Building, Rockville, Md.

Owner: NOAA MD, Williamsville, N.Y.

Lead Design: HOK, Washington, D.C.

Client: General Services Administration, Washington, D.C.

Structural Engineer: Walter P Moore and Associates, Washington, D.C.

Civil Engineer: A. Morton Thomas and Associates, Rockville, Md.

MEP: Vanderweil Engineers; Washington, D.C.

Submitted by: HOK

Click Here to View Related Article


----- Advertising -----
  Blogs: ENR Staff   Blogs: Other Voices  
Critical Path: ENR's editors and bloggers deliver their insights, opinions, cool-headed analysis and hot-headed rantings
Project Leads/Pulse

Gives readers a glimpse of who is planning and constructing some of the largest projects throughout the U.S. Much information for pulse is derived from McGraw-Hill Construction Dodge.

For more information on a project in Pulse that has a DR#, or for general information on Dodge products and services, please visit our Website at

Information is provided on construction projects in following stages in each issue of ENR: Planning, Contracts/Bids/Proposals and Bid/Proposal Dates.

View all Project Leads/Pulse »

 Reader Comments:

Sign in to Comment

To write a comment about this story, please sign in. If this is your first time commenting on this site, you will be required to fill out a brief registration form. Your public username will be the beginning of the email address that you enter into the form (everything before the @ symbol). Other than that, none of the information that you enter will be publically displayed.

We welcome comments from all points of view. Off-topic or abusive comments, however, will be removed at the editors’ discretion.