The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)’s ultramodern new digs at 1200 New York Ave. NW have succeeded in pleasing the tree-huggers with a “green” design that embraces a gamut of energy-saving and eco-loving gadgets and gizmos. But the greens are not the only ones the 12-story, dark granite–faced monolith is making happy. The local elements, rats in particular, took up residence before the $58-million building even opened, and they haven’t settled for basement quarters or unrented spaces on the lower floors, as you might expect. Thanks to the building’s megahip Miconic 10 elevators, the District’s most ubiquitous residents have invaded the top floors, where AAAS’s prestigious magazine, Science, and executive offices are housed.
Or at least that’s the best theory some of Science’s finest staffers can construct to explain the rat sightings—and droppings—on the upper floors, because the building’s staircases are locked. AAAS’s new headquarters are among the first on the East Coast to house a state-of-the-art Miconic 10 computerized elevator system, which doesn’t require occupants to push a button once inside. The cars, which average about $160,000 apiece, zoom by programmed command once employees access the elevator using an electronic card reader. AAAS’s sophisticated ’vators were still operating somewhat sporadically this week, according to staffers.
In addition to creating an “enviro-friendly” geometric wonder, architect Henry N. Cobb designed the 200,000–square foot building to be the “embodiment” of the advancement of science at AAAS’s request. The first serious question the science society’s resident Ph.D.’s may consider is how long the elevator-savvy rats will outsmart the pest-control firm brought in by the association’s management.
“Rodents come with the territory of opening up a building,” says Tom Wilbur, senior vice president of John Akridge Co., the building’s developer. But Wilbur says the elevator hypothesis is “highly unlikely,” though he doesn’t rule out the possibility. “Rodents will go where there is food.” Workers were putting the finishing touches on the 12th floor only a couple of weeks ago, he says, adding that the staircases were propped open during much of the 18-month construction period.
AAAS management assured its 300-plus workers before they moved in on April 15 that the rodent problem was being addressed, according to internal correspondence. You have to wonder whether the rats will take the the elevator when they finally decide to leave.—Julie Wakefield