Growing up, Brian Earle’s family moved every couple of years. He was born in Heidelberg, Germany; relocated several times to U.S. cities; and attended high school in Seoul, where he lived within artillery range of the North Korean border. 

“I’m a military brat,” says Earle, the principal-in-charge for ZGF Architects of Amazon’s 2.1-million-sq-ft Metropolitan Park office development in the National Landing district of Arlington County, Va. In addition to his father, both grandfathers were in the service, he adds.

Influenced by the military’s approach to collective problem solving, Earle has been called a “consummate collaborator” by Matt Ginivan, senior vice president for development at JBG SMITH, MetPark’s development and property manager.

Earle’s emphasis on collaboration has “filtered down to the construction team,” adds Jeff King, a vice president of the general contractor, Clark Construction. “Brian is fantastic at keeping the client’s vision and solving issues” in a way that “benefits the team as a whole,” says King.

MetPark is designed to integrate into the existing neighborhood of Crystal City. It is targeting LEED Platinum and net-zero operational carbon. And it is tracking a 15% reduction in the embodied carbon of the job’s 200,000 cu yd of concrete.

ZGF had targeted a 10% reduction and included the goal in the bid documents. The concrete subcontractors, Miller & Long Co.  and Clark Concrete, are beating the target by 5%.

Earle calls the lower embodied carbon “an industry-moving endeavor to pull off,” especially considering the scale of the project.

Earle’s bent as a visual learner, talent as an artist and youthful exposure to many cultures and architectural styles led to his interest in urbanism, especially buildings that do less harm to the environment. “For society to grow and prosper, we need to find a way to build sustainably,” he says.

Phenomenal Leader

“Brian has been a phenomenal leader on the project,” especially in the realm of entitlements and urban design, says Ginivan.

With topping out expected in early spring, MetPark’s two 22-story buildings are on course for completion in the spring of 2023.

To determine MetPark’s embodied carbon diet, ZGF used its Concrete LCA Tool—a simple Excel calculator, offered free of charge to anyone, for rapid life cycle assessments of concrete mix designs and comparisons to regional practices. 

ZGF and structural engineer Thornton Tomasetti then created a novel performance-based specification for the concrete bidders to get their ideas on how to best reduce the embodied carbon. 

Bid forms went out with a primer introducing environmental product declarations, global warming potential and related subjects. And bidders could use ZGF’s tool. 

“Hopefully, the embodied carbon reduction will pave the way for others to do the same,” says King.

“It’s our job to push that by helping owners understand it is achievable” with no added cost, adds Earle, who predicts that shrinking concrete’s carbon footprint by 30% to 45% over current baselines will be the norm in five to 10 years.