AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects

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World Headquarters for the International Fund for Animal Welfare
(World Headquarters for IFAW)

This photo shows the view of IFAW's World Headquarters from the courtyard meadow.
Photo credit: © Peter Vanderwarker 2008


  • Location: Yarmouthport, MA
  • Building type(s): Other
  • 55,200 ft2 (5,130 m2)
  • Project scope: multiple buildings
  • Rural setting
  • Completed January 2008
  • Rating: U.S. Green Building Council LEED-NC, v.2.2--Level: Gold

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is located on Cape Cod in Yarmouthport, Massachusetts, where it has pursued its work for thirty years. This project created a new base of operations for the nearly 200 people IFAW employs on the Cape.

The new IFAW headquarters encompasses 54,000 square feet of space in three connected buildings. The space is used for research, public relations, meetings, conferences, a worldwide data center, and serves as the hub for IFAW's 16 country offices. The project accomplishes its goals through a pragmatic low-cost, low-tech approach to sustainability based on fundamentals and common sense. The new IFAW headquarters is LEED Gold certified and cost just $220/ft2 to build.

The new building is inspired by a Herreshoff "12 1/2" sailboat that you might see in the waters off Cape Cod. Tight white boards cover the outside, while the inside exposes an elegant open structure and natural wood. The site landscape draws from the 18th-century Bartlett farm in nearby Barnstable as a model of landscape preservation. The resulting layout is in the tradition of rural Cape Cod development; a half-acre courtyard of native grasses, open to the south, centers the building complex, whose flexible architecture is located at the north, east and west edges of the site.

This project was chosen as an AIA Committee on the Environment Top Ten Green Project for 2009. It was submitted by DesignLAB Architects in Boston, Massachusetts. Additional project team members are listed on the "Process" screen.

Environmental Aspects

The design team transformed the project's brownfield site into an asset by creating a restored meadow, re-establishing a natural habitat with native vegetation. Within the building, IFAW chose to incorporate practical, straightforward, low-tech, low-cost strategies for sustainable design such as siting, orientation, natural daylighting and ventilation, and high-efficiency mechanical systems.

Because of IFAW's commitment to the environment, incorporating sustainable strategies was just as important as other, more typical office design concerns. IFAW employees were involved in design workshops to create a plan that would maximize the organization's effectiveness. The result was a plan that reduces square footage by 50% per person while expanding the collaborative workspace and increasing the employees' sense of ownership of the space.

The use of LEED as a guide rather than a goal allowed IFAW to track and pursue initiatives relative to cost and accreditation, but to deviate from certain credits as dictated by pragmatism and institutional objectives. The process actually increased the project's eventual rating, by continually revising the strategies without feeling beholden to any one method.

Owner & Occupancy

  • Owned by International Fund for Animal Welfare, Corporation, nonprofit
  • Occupants: Corporation, nonprofit
  • Typically occupied by 158 people, 43 hours per person per week; and 15 visitors per week, 12 hours per visitor per week


Integrated team, Transportation benefits, Brownfield redevelopment, Open space preservation, Wildlife habitat, Wetlands, Indigenous vegetation, Stormwater management, Wastewater treatment, Massing and orientation, Passive solar, HVAC, Certified wood, Connection to outdoors, Daylighting, Natural ventilation

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Last updated: 4/13/2009

Our thanks to the ENERGY STAR program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and to the U.S. Department of Energy, and to BuildingGreen, Inc. for hosting the submission and judging forms.

For more information about the AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects, contact AIA/COTE. For help on how to use this Web site, contact .

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