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Midtown Center

General Contractor:  Clark Construction Group

Engineer/Architect:  Girard Engineering PC

Architect:  WDG Architecture, PLLC

Contract Amount:  $38,000,000

Start Date:  4/20/2016

Completion Date:  5/31/2018


Located at 1100 15th St. NW in the heart of downtown Washington, D.C., the project dubbed Midtown Center is one of the most anticipated development projects in the D.C. metropolitan area. The 865,000 RSF (rentable square feet) office project features two full-height curtainwall office towers separated by a public plaza, which offers clients and pedestrians the opportunity to interact with approximately 50,000 SF of retail. The building serves as Fannie Mae’s new D.C. headquarters, and boasts stunning suspended bridges connecting the East and West office towers. Amenities are consistent with the building’s first-class LEED Gold construction, and include parking, a fitness center, penthouse building conference center and rooftop terrace views that provide sprawling views of downtown Washington, D.C. and its monuments.

According to a November 14 article in the Washington Post by art and architecture critic Philip Kennicott, “Midtown Center is a rare example of urban jazz in what is otherwise a uniformly drab stretch of typical Washington bureaucratic architecture. If this study in resisting the grid is successful and repeated elsewhere, one can imagine entirely new patterns of movement and habitation in the city, with interconnected plazas and alleys overlaid on the otherwise monotonous right angles of old cityscape.”


Shapiro & Duncan’s scope of work on our $30 million base building contract for this gigantic office building included design-assist, coordination, modeling and installation of a chilled water dedicated outside air system (DOAS), the latest technology for delivering outside air to interior finished space, plus installation of all plumbing systems.

On this design/assist project, the owner selected contractors based on qualifications and budgets provided from drawings that were 30 percent complete. The engineering and construction teams worked together to finalize drawings.

This presented the first major challenge. Design-assist is a project delivery method in which the construction team is engaged by the owner to collaborate with the architect and engineer during the design phase. It overlaps the design phase with the construction phase of the project to reduce the schedule duration and cost of construction, improve constructability and add value by reducing conflicts. Design-assist is a teamwork approach to design and construction.

However, on a design/assist project, bids are locked in prior to having a final design. This means there is no wiggle room for project modifications or schedule slippages.

This led directly to the second challenge: the project timeframe. From the time the old Washington Post building was demolished, the schedule allowed just one year to the date tenant occupants would start moving in on two floors in one of the two towers. For Shapiro & Duncan, the mechanical contractor, this meant that the heart of our construction would have to be completed and the heating and air conditioning system, plus the plumbing system, would need to be operational.

Phased occupancy posed yet another challenge. While our team would be in the middle of construction, tenants would be occupying portions of the building with all of the attendant security issues. This could very well slow things down.

The fourth and final challenge was the additional planning and coordination required by the fact that our team would be working with two different mechanical engineering firms, one for the base building and another for the Fannie Mae portion of the project.


Faced with the challenge of a fast-paced $30 million design/assist project followed by an $8 million Fannie Mae HQ tenant fit-out, our team had to find a solution that would enable us to meet all the substantial completion and occupancy dates.

To keep this project on schedule, each part of the job was broken down, using Short Interval Planning (SIP) schedules, into a micro schedule that could be managed and updated weekly. It was necessary to do this to set our team’s expectations in line with both the main schedule and the general contractor’s schedule. In addition to using SIP scheduling, after first occupancy we increased face-to-face collaboration on the jobsite by holding joint base building and tenant fit-out meetings.

Shapiro & Duncan’s Virtual Design and Coordination (VDC) team was another key to meeting this project’s schedule. Using our cutting-edge Building Information Modeling (BIM) system, our VDC team, as the lead BIM subcontractor, ran 3D clash detection for all piping, ductwork and DOAS-related equipment with all other subcontractors and utility installation subcontractors (including sheet metal, sprinkler and electrical). These BIM models were then turned over to our 51,000 square-foot fabrication shop in Landover, Md., where approximately 75 percent of Shapiro & Duncan’s installations were pre-fabricated for delivery to the jobsite.


Despite the speed required on this project, our team met all substantial completion dates and turned the building over to the owner one week early. This included both Phase I tenant move-in, and Phase II occupancy of the rest of the building, a week ahead of time. Early completion required an extraordinary collaborative effort on the part of all subcontractors on this project. This is because the medium-pressure base building ductwork was being installed at the same time as the low-pressure tenant fit-out ductwork, along with all of the above-ceiling and in-wall utilities. In fact, in the opinion of our project management team, this was the most qualified and best collaborative team of subcontractors experienced in their 25 years in construction. Hats off to the general contractor, Clark Construction, for being the driving force behind this superlative collaboration effort.

Undoubtedly, on large, fast-paced design/assist projects such as Midtown Center, proper planning and smooth execution are the keys to success. As our team demonstrates time and again, no project is too large or too fast for Shapiro & Duncan!