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1770 Crystal Drive

Delivering a Prime Era of Growth:

Existing Building Modernization begins Amazon HQ2 Construction



  • Positive impact and a leadership role in the region’s dynamic growth. 1770 Crystal Drive is in a prime spot within the new, rapidly-expanding National Landing area. The building was dated, and Shapiro & Duncan’s role in updating its systems will stand the test of time as the area undergoes expansive new development in the months and years ahead.
  • Fast turnaround and delivery, despite a global pandemic. The project’s timeframe was aggressive from the outset, at just a year allotted from start to finish. Even amid the global COVID-19 pandemic that arose toward the end of the work, the project remained on schedule.
  • A reputation for expertise. Shapiro & Duncan’s reputation for leadership and excellence made them a prime candidate for the general contractor to contact in a pinch. A new team needed to be brought on to execute the tasks and carry the work to completion.
  • Out-of-the-box thinking. Large air handling units were needed to replace older ones in the building’s penthouse. Due to the urban nature of the surrounding area, the tight interior mechanical space, and its close proximity to a metro station, Shapiro & Duncan’s team used its Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) coordination process to develop a creative installation sequencing strategy to get the 2-story high units broken into pieces, lifted to the mechanical room by crane, and precisely reassembled on-site. With only one shot to get it right, accuracy was essential.


Shapiro & Duncan’s leadership in the large-scale overhaul to the building’s plumbing and mechanical systems gave their team a key role in enabling this next phase of growth and development. However, at the outset of the project, the dated building, urban surroundings, and a variety of other factors did present some challenges the Shapiro & Duncan team had to overcome. These included:

  • Complexity of scope and tasks. The 1770 Crystal Drive project focused on the modernization of a dated 14-story building in Arlington, Virginia, involving a full renovation of the mechanical and plumbing systems throughout the building. This included air handling units, an indoor cooling tower, water source heat pumps, and chilled water systems.

This project also took place amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, which required a number of adjustments and changes to ensure top standards of cleanliness and safety were observed on the job site. Shapiro & Duncan implemented its process to do this, including the addition of field sinks and sanitation stations and adjusting work schedules for trades teams to reduce overall weekly exposure risks.

  • Urban location in a fast-growing area. Amazon HQ2 is located in the rapidly-developing National Landing area of Arlington County, Virginia, a prime location nearby Washington, DC. The building sits in the “Central District” retail cluster, and will include restaurants with outdoor seating, a movie theater, and a potential small-format grocery store. A metro station is located directly adjacent to the building and several other high-rise facilities surround it, creating limited lay-down space and challenges with hoisting large equipment. Additionally, neighboring businesses’ mechanical systems fed through those at 1770 Crystal Drive, and this required the Shapiro & Duncan project team to maintain systems to provide temperature control while the work was in progress.


  • Design and workforce changes during the project. Several design changes arose during the Phase 1 activities, and these moving pieces required Shapiro & Duncan to be nimble and creative throughout the project. At the project’s mid-point Federal Prevailing Wage Scale was adopted so the payroll process and employee certification rules changed, which required some shifts to the jobsite personnel and their responsibilities. This challenged the Shapiro & Duncan team to face these shifts head-on while maintaining momentum in the progress and upholding top quality in workmanship.


Shapiro & Duncan’s approach to confronting the challenges and tackling the large list of project requirements at the new Amazon headquarters required laser-sharp coordination, commitment to utmost standards in precision and planning, and a creative outlook. The team’s solution consisted of the following key areas:

  • Complexity of scope and tasks. The project kicked off with the demolition and installation of plumbing and mechanical systems throughout the facility. Two large air handling units were installed on the building’s penthouse, brought up by crane and assembled on-site for precise fitting into the allocated areas. Shapiro & Duncan’s VDC coordination process was an essential element in ensuring the extreme levels of accuracy in this part of the project, as getting it right the first time was critical. Once ductwork is in place, the units are not able to be moved. These air handling units then fed into 6 fan-powered induction units to circulate and re-cool the air on all floors throughout the building. In addition to the lifting and installation of these units, this project also involved the installation of several other pieces of equipment and fixture packages, including:
    • 14 sets of gang bathrooms (1 set on each floor);
    • An indoor cooling tower with hydronic pumps and a condenser loop, as well as primary and secondary chilled water systems; and
    • Four water source heat pumps in different locations throughout the building that served different sub-sections, transfer fans, small pieces.

All of these systems were then tied into existing services fed out of the main mechanical room on the facility campus.

  • Urban location in a fast-growing area. Throughout the project, the Shapiro & Duncan team was required to be sensitive to phasing of key activities so as not to be a burden for the surrounding neighborhood. When preparing to install the two air hander units in the penthouse, installation sequencing was a key consideration. The units themselves come in a series of sections, and are housed inside a mechanical room that requires a precise fit.

To do this, the Shapiro & Duncan team used a crane to rig materials up to the penthouse level, then assembled the unit there before rolling it into its final location. There was no way to move the units once the ductwork, piping, and exterior envelope were in place, and it was imperative to get things right, the first time. Shapiro & Duncan’s VDC coordination process played an integral role in this effort, to ensure each step was executed accurately and precisely for the smooth assembly and installation of each air handler unit.

  • Design and workforce changes during the project. The changes made mid-project to design elements and on-site staff required a flexible, nimble, and creative mindset in the project solutions being implemented to keep momentum going and tasks on schedule.


The Amazon HQ2 facility at 1770 Crystal Drive was executed successfully, yielding the desired result from an unfinished core of the building. All interior plumbing and mechanical systems were renovated, modernized, and ready for the build-out of the facility’s office spaces in preparation for its opening. Throughout, the project remained on-schedule, with fast turnarounds and delivery, despite the challenges and the COVID-19 pandemic that began toward its end.