World Headquarters for the International Fund for Animal Welfare


290 Summer Street

Yarmouth Port, MA

United States

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Building Type:
Building Area:
55,000 sf
January 2008
Total Project Costs (land excluded):
Certifications & Awards
  • U.S. LEED-NC, v.2.2 Gold
Project Team
  • Architect: DesignLAB Architects; Boston, Massachusetts


The World Headquarters for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is located on Cape Cod in Yarmouthport, Massachusetts, where IFAW has pursued its work for thirty years. This project by DesignLab Architects, created a new base of operations for the nearly 200 people IFAW employs on the Cape.

The new IFAW headquarters encompasses 54,000 square feet of space in three connected buildings. The space is used for research, public relations, meetings, conferences, a worldwide data center, and serves as the hub for IFAW's 16 country offices. The project accomplishes its goals through a pragmatic low-cost, low-tech approach to sustainability based on fundamentals and common sense. The new IFAW headquarters is LEED Gold certified and cost just $220/ft2 to build.

The new building is inspired by a Herreshoff "12 1/2" sailboat that you might see in the waters off Cape Cod. Tight white boards cover the outside, while the inside exposes an elegant open structure and natural wood. The site landscape draws from the 18th-century Bartlett farm in nearby Barnstable as a model of landscape preservation. The resulting layout is in the tradition of rural Cape Cod development; a half-acre courtyard of native grasses, open to the south, centers the building complex, whose flexible architecture is located at the north, east and west edges of the site.

Environmental Aspects

Where most building projects can hope to minimize impact at best, the remediation and reconstruction of the contaminated site allowed for a net positive environmental result. The design team transformed the project's brownfield site into an asset by creating a restored meadow, re-establishing a natural habitat with native vegetation. Within the building, IFAW chose to incorporate practical, straightforward, low-tech, low-cost strategies for sustainable design such as siting, orientation, natural daylighting and ventilation, and high-efficiency mechanical systems.

Because of IFAW's commitment to the environment, incorporating sustainable strategies was just as important as other, more typical office design concerns. IFAW employees were involved in design workshops to create a plan that would maximize the organization's effectiveness. The result was a plan that reduces square footage by 50% per person while expanding the collaborative workspace and increasing the employees' sense of ownership of the space.

The use of LEED as a guide rather than a goal allowed IFAW to track and pursue initiatives relative to cost and accreditation, but to deviate from certain credits as dictated by pragmatism and institutional objectives. The process actually increased the project's eventual rating, by continually revising the strategies without feeling beholden to any one method.


The original site for this project - five acres of undeveloped forest- was sold to the town to be preserved for wildlife protection. The new site, a 5 acre contaminated brownfield lot abutting the highway, was purchased with IFAW making the commitment to voluntarily restored the land through the removal of toxins and trash. In addition to restoring the land quality, this reclamation would help protect the aquifer. The site design and ecology at IFAW have created a substantial improvement over the previous condition.

Water Conservation and Stormwater Management

Conservation and responsible water treatment are critical to IFAW’s mission as a large portion of their work is dedicated to the protection of water-based habitat. The design creates a classic Cape Cod landscape, complete with native vegetation and integrated stormwater management.

The use of native vegetation provides a habitat that supports local wildlife and eliminates the need for irrigation. In addition the project team installed bioswales and rain gardens, to channel, collect and cleanse the rainwater that runs off the parking lot. As water moves through the landscape, native vegetation filters it naturally and breaks down potential pollutants. Retention ponds assist in collecting rainwater following large rainstorms.

One hundred percent of the domestic wastewater generated at IFAW is treated onsite with a state-of-the-art Amphidrome septic system. Due to the sensitive nature of Cape Cod’s ecosystems and the location of the site in a zone of contribution to a public well, a high level of treatment was desirable. The Amphidrome technology is an innovative process for wastewater treatment that simultaneously removes BOD, ammonia, suspended solids, and nitrate-nitrogen.

Dual-flush toilet fixtures and low-flow aerator faucets reduce water consumption within the building by 46% compared to a building meeting the current federal standards.


AIA, Top Ten, 2009.