The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center: Energy Efficiency and Daylighting for All

The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center first opened its doors in 2008, marking the completion of a monument that can't be missed across the District's skyline. This May the center welcomed 20 Better Buildings Summit tour participants, taking them behind the scenes of energy upgrades. Tour participants were among thousands who visit the Capitol daily – the facility has a capacity of 4,000 and sees as many as 19,000 a day at peak tourist season. 

The Capitol has reduced energy consumption by 31% over the last 10 years across its 17.4m square feet of facilities, historic buildings and grounds; investing $90 million in upgrades with $80m in savings. This tour will focus on the U.S. Capitol Building and explain how the integration of modern technologies in historic buildings achieves extraordinary results.

The underground expansion utilizes daylighting for guiding guests through the Visitor Center, as well as LED lighting and on-site steam generation. The energy monitoring system is state-of-the-art. In addition to the secure locations built for highly sensitive Congressional activity, there is a robust alarm system, and a uniquely designed HVAC system that is not only efficient, but provides protection in case of airborne security threats.

Initial approval for the construction of the Capitol Visitors Center (CVC) came in 2000; after the events of September 11, 2001, new high security measures had to be incorporated (as the expanded underground facility hosts not only tourists, but also additional meeting space for Congress). The center now boasts a mixture of cutting edge security measures and high-efficiency technologies.

Did you know? Even forty feet underground, every tour participant’s cell phone had a signal. This was one of the unique aspects noted by tour participants inside the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center this May.