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First Look: Amazon unveils plans for sustainable, nature-inspired HQ2

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A swirling tower inspired by a double helix and 2.5 acres of public spaces are among the features in the design proposals for Amazon's second headquarters, in Arlington, Virginia. 

The e-tail giant has submitted its proposed development plans for phase two of the headquarters, which will eventually be a 4 million-sq.-ft. campus. Designed by architecture firm NBBJ, the plans are designed to create a sustainable environment with open and active spaces.

The plans call for 2.8 million-sq.-ft. of new office space distributed across three, 22-story buildings. The design prioritizes areas for collaboration, natural light and interaction with nature. The new buildings are designed to be LEED Platinum, the highest certification for a sustainable development issued by the U.S. Green Building Council. 

The centerpiece of the project will be “The Helix,” a 350-foot double helix-shaped building with two walkable paths of landscaped terrain that will spiral up the outside of the building, featuring trees and plantings from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Amazon is also planning an artist-in-residence program to be hosted in The Helix, and will offer public tours of building several weekends a month.

Other features of the second phase include a variety of open spaces totaling more than 2.5 acres that will be accessible for public use, an amphitheater facing a  central green that will be able to accommodate outdoor concerts, farmers’ markets and movies in the park. There will also be a forest grove, retail pavilions and restaurants located throughout the site, a room for a childcare center, a dog run and even a food truck area with plentiful outdoor seating. 

In addition, Amazon will create a dedicated 20,000-sq.-ft. community space that can support educational initiatives, as well as large community meetings, small classes, and individual use. Amazon says the publicly-accessible spaces throughout the site will prioritize walkways, landscaping, and retail over motor vehicles. The company will move all vehicle access underground, including deliveries and docking activity. There will also be protected bike lanes in the streets and each office building will have dedicated street-level bike entrances and facilities.

The project also includes an all-electric central heating and cooling system that will run on 100% renewable energy from a solar farm located in Pittsylvania County in southern Virginia, procured in collaboration with Arlington County. This will align with Amazon’s Climate Pledge to be net-zero carbon by 2040.

 Amazon currently has more than 1,600 employees and over 600 open jobs at its HQ2 campus, and has committed to creating 25,000 jobs and investing $2.5 billion in Arlington over the next decade.

“We’ve worked on this project for two years with the goal of bringing nature and creativity—so often intertwined—to Arlington,” John Schoettler, VP, global real estate and facilities, Amazon, said in a corporate blog post. “We look forward to hearing from the community over the coming months and working together to make this vision a reality.”

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