Part of the initial 19-acre phase of developer JBG Smith’s mixed-use development in North Potomac Yard, the first academic building of Virginia Tech’s Washington, D.C.-area Innovation Campus, officially got underway earlier this month with a ceremonial groundbreaking in Alexandria, Va.

The 300,000-sq-ft building is located just south of Amazon’s HQ2 complex at National Landing. To be built on a 3.5-acre campus by construction manager at-risk Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. Inc., the $300-million project calls for an 11-story gem-shaped building containing instruction, research, office and support spaces for graduate-level programs in computer science and computer engineering, as well as select other programs. Flexible multipurpose areas, state-of-the-art research and testing labs will be included as well. The program also calls for underground parking.

Virginia Tech vice president and Innovation Campus director, Lance Collins, said that breaking ground on the first academic building is a milestone in the program’s effort to “address a national need for technology talent at the graduate level.”

Rooted in Sustainability

Collins noted that the building’s design is “rooted in sustainability.” Architect SmithGroup Inc. used computational and generative design techniques to create a geometry that maximizes the building's ability to capture solar energy, including incorporating photovoltaic cells into the façade’s vision glass. An adjacent ecosystem park will allow for future phasing of one or more geothermal heating sources. Options include vertical ground-coupled heat exchange, or wastewater heat exchange from the entire development which would flow through a new pump transfer station just north of the campus.

SmithGroup also says the building’s fossil-fuel consumption will be limited to meeting code requirements, with other elements targeted to be carbon-neutral.

Scheduled to open in time for the 2024-25 academic year, the building eventually will be complemented by two other 150,000-sq-ft facilities. Blacksburg, Va.-based Virginia Tech estimates that at full build-out, the campus will host approximately 750 master’s and 200 doctoral students.

JBG Smith, which is also overseeing development of HQ2, plans to complement the Virginia Tech campus with six other buildings providing a mix of office, retail and residential space, as well as a separate “innovation building.” A new Metrorail stop for Potomac Yard is scheduled to open in the fall of 2022.