digital edition

Founding Farmers Restaurant

Washington, D.C.

Agrarian Values in the City of Pork: In its design, construction, and even its operation, a Washington, D.C., restaurant provides healthy portions of sustainability along with some attention-getting spaces.

By Clifford A. Pearson

Founding Farmers Restaurant, Washington, D.C.
Photo © Michael Moran

Founding Farmers Restaurant, Washington, D.C.

Peter Hapstak III, AIA, principal, and Allison Cooke, designer, of CORE Architecture-Design
Peter Hapstak III, AIA, principal, and Allison Cooke, designer, of CORE Architecture-Design visit the project.

Rate this project:
Based on what you have seen and read about this project, how would you grade it? Use the stars below to indicate your assessment, five stars being the highest rating.
----- Advertising -----

LOCATION: Washington, D.C. (Chesapeake Bay Watershed)

GROSS SQUARE FOOTAGE: 8,500 ft2 (790 m2)

COMPLETED: September 2008

PROGRAM: Restaurant

CI Version 2 Gold

OWNER: North Dakota Farmers Union
ARCHITECT: CORE Architecture|Design
ENGINEERS: Tadjer Cohen Edelson Associates (structural); FACE Associates (MEP)
GENERAL CONTRACTOR: Forrester Construction Company

WALLCOVERINGS: Designtex Duraprene
BRICK: Vintage Brick Salvage
RECLAIMED HEART PINE FLOORING: sourced by Wiggins and Company and manufactured by ecofinishes
CARPET: Blueridge, Antron Legacy Nylon with Dura Tech
WOOD FURNITURE: Dunbar Furniture
PASTRY LIGHTS Produzione Privata
CLOUD LIGHTS: Studio Italia

At a time when bestselling books and widely distributed films are exposing the evils of industrialized food, a restaurant owned by family farmers makes sense to a lot of people. The challenge for Peter Hapstak, III, AIA, and his design firm, CORE, was finding a way to bring the spirit of the farm to an odd location: the headquarters of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in downtown Washington, D.C. So as he designed Founding Farmers, an 8,500-square-foot restaurant at the base of the IMF’s new Pei Cobb Freed-designed office building on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 20th Street, NW, Hapstak focused on the ethos of the venture—healthy foods grown or raised with sustainable practices—and looked for ways to express this architecturally.

Owned by the North Dakota Farmers Union, a cooperative of 40,000 family businesses, the two-story, LEED-Gold certified restaurant showcases a wide range of green strategies, from its design and construction to the operation of its kitchen. Even the servers taking orders and bringing out food have been trained to talk about the restaurant’s environmental mission.

“We used a deconstructed metaphor of the barn, but did it a little tongue-in-cheek,” says Hapstak. He and his team created much of the interior with salvaged wood, contrasting the material with the building’s glass-and-steel envelope so that the vernacular elements never seem corny. They designed a pair of booths on the second floor to recall corn cribs, inserted a barn ladder in a glass corner, and used the kind of standing-seam metal you would find on a farmhouse. Despite concerns, the country theme comes across as being comfortable, not contrived. For flooring they specified wood reclaimed from a textile mill outside Atlanta and for walls they used wood taken from a barn in West Virginia. Original paint on some of the wood contained lead, but the designers wanted to retain the weathered look of these pieces so they encapsulated the paint with a clear sealer. Walnut tables and chairs came from a manufacturer in North Carolina who used wood harvested from forests in Pennsylvania. Altogether, about 45 percent of the materials in the project came from sources within 500 miles, just as the restaurant tries to buy produce and foods from local farms and enterprises.

When CORE started working on the project, it faced significant challenges, including structural columns and a mezzanine floor slab that made laying out a 263-seat restaurant difficult. “We needed an architect with real spatial vision,” explains Dan Simons, a principal at Vucurevich Simons Advisory Group, which served as the owner’s representative for the project.

CORE made the most of the situation by placing a large bar in the center of the ground-floor space to serve customers or wait staff on four sides and then arranging dining tables below the cantilevered mezzanine slab and around the perimeter of the restaurant. The firm created a variety of dining areas on each of the two floors, using recycled-content acrylic screens with embedded natural elements to separate spaces and seating some diners at long communal tables. According to Christian Holmes, the restaurant’s general manager, repeat customers favor the two “corn crib” booths on the second floor and the perimeter tables on the ground floor where they can enjoy the double-height space.

Two-story-high glass on the north and west sides of the restaurant bring abundant daylight into the space, reducing the need for electric lighting. (Shades can be lowered on the west to protect the space from the afternoon sun.) The designers reduced energy use further by specifying LED lighting in many places and using incandescent bulbs only in a few locations to warm up the ambiance.

More than 80 percent of the restaurant’s appliances are Energy Star-rated, including all freezers, refrigerators, fryers, steam cooker, the main dishwasher, the bar dishwasher, and the hot-food holding cabinet. In addition, a high-efficiency HVAC system and heat pump exceed Advanced Buildings Energy Benchmark and ASHRAE standards. The restaurant also purchases green-power credits, accounting for half of its electricity consumption. In the restrooms, waterless urinals and low-flow lavatories save 192,000 gallons of water each year, while countertops are made from 100-percent post-consumer recycled paper and non-petroleum-based phenolic resin.

Sustainability drove decisions affecting the construction and operation of the restaurant, not just its design. As a result, 90 percent of all construction waste and materials were recycled or diverted from landfill. The restaurant has a waste, recycle, and compost area and is certified by the Green Restaurant Association, which reviews its operation each year.

The North Dakota Farmers Union hopes to open more restaurants using the same environmental mentality as its flagship on Pennsylvania Avenue, says Simons. “You can take this sustainable approach and make money,” he explains. “The people eating here really care about these things.”

share: more »

This article appeared in the September 2009 print issue of GreenSource Magazine.

 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.

----- Advertising -----
Click here to go to product info Page
Sweets, Search Building Products
Reader Feedback
Most Commented Most Recommended
Rankings reflect comments made in the past 14 days
Rankings reflect comments made in the past 14 days
Recently Posted Reader Photos

View all photo galleries >>
Recent Forum Discussions

View all forum discusions >>