Feature

This spring, APA is carving out an oasis of serenity in the middle of the nation's capital: In a collaborative effort, APA is installing a 3,000-square-foot garden and a labyrinth on the roof of its building at 10 G St., N.E., in Washington, D.C.

The project is designed to give employees and visitors a place for quiet reflection and help prevent pollution in local waterways.

APA was approached for the venture by The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which seeks to help Washington, D.C., cope with water runoff problems created by the city's antiquated sewer system. Under normal rainfall conditions, water and sewage from downtown flows to a treatment plant, then into the Potomac River. But during the city's heaviest storms-about 75 times a year-the sewer system becomes overloaded. Instead of being treated, polluted water and raw sewage run into area rivers and eventually the Chesapeake Bay. Last year, about 1.5 billion gallons of water and sewage streamed into the city's Anacostia River.

APA's green roof garden of low-maintenance grasses and other plants will help capture some of that runoff. "The city is filled with acres and acres of empty roofs, and if more organizations did this, it could help resolve the problem," says Skipwith C. Calvert, director of APA's administrative operations. "We see this as a demonstration project that other buildings across the country can replicate."

The garden will also help reduce the association's energy expenses: "The new roof will enable us to reduce the building's heat load and help cool off the building, which will save us energy and money," says Calvert.

Adding to those benefits, the garden will feature a labyrinth, an ancient tool for walking meditation and quiet reflection that in recent years has seen a resurgence of popularity. Those who walk the labyrinth-a universal path that leads to a center-are encouraged to "stay present" with every step and share the experience with others.

For its green roof, APA will use a labyrinth design known as the Santa Rosa Labyrinth, conceived by psychologist Lea Goode-Harris, PhD.

Although the origins of the labyrinth are a mystery-the first is estimated to have been built 3,000 to 5,000 years ago-its social and psychological benefits are clear, says Goode-Harris.

"When you walk in the company of other people from different views, different religions and different political agendas, you're all on the same path, but you move through seeing different points of views," she says. "I see that as especially important in a city like D.C. where there are so very many factions that can come together."

Creating such a reflective space for employees also falls in line with the goal of APA Chief Executive Officer Norman B. Anderson, PhD, to make APA a healthier workplace.

"The labyrinth will create a wonderful opportunity to help people find stillness in the middle of a busy work day, in the midst of a busy city," says Holly Siprelle, APA director of staff initiatives.

The project is estimated to cost $170,500. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has pledged $20,000, and another $10,000 will come from World Resources Institute, a non-profit environmental think tank and tenant at the 10 G St. property. In addition, TKF Foundation, an organization that fosters the creation of public green spaces, has given APA enough funds to start the project.

"The green roof and labyrinth have the potential to heal and unify in a city much in need of both," says TKF Foundation Executive Director Mary F. Wyatt.

 

APA welcomes additional funding for its Green Roof project. To make a donation, send a check payable to "APA Green Roof/Labyrinth" to APA Finance/Green Roof/Labyrinth at 750 First St. N.E., Washington, DC 20002.