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Green Landscaping


The USDA Headquarters complex consists of two structures; the South Building and the Jamie L. Whitten Building. The South Building containing over more than 2 million gross square feet making a larger imprint on the ground; but the Jamie L. Whitten building, one of the largest office buildings located on the National Mall makes it one of USDA's highest profile facilities. The Whitten landscape is a mix of mature and newly planted trees, native and invasive shrubs, and sprawling groundcovers and lawn. Traditional landscaping practices included rotating the bedding material at this site three times a year featuring spring bulbs, annuals, and cold weather bloomers. (Over 35,000 tulips, begonias, and geraniums are planted each season.) The landscaping costs at the Whitten Building exceed $240,000 annually. No master landscape plan exists for the landscape and many incompatible and intolerant trees and where poorly adapted to the site. Heavy amounts of asphalt paving raised summer temperatures and increased storm water runoff into the nearby rivers.

Our Objectives

  • Reduce the environmental impacts from depletion of natural resources, chemical and pesticide use, waste generation and storm-water runoff.
  • Improve the appearance of the USDA owned grounds and the wildlife habitat by using environmentally beneficial landscaping that protects the environment as well as adding color and interest to the site.
  • Provide a demonstration area site for the public and employees to learn about USDA environmental programs, initiatives, and opportunities to recreate this model in their own backyard.


The People's Garden
On Earth Day in 2009, the Secretary declared the entire grounds of the Jamie L. Whitten Building part of "The People's Garden". The garden showcases conservation practices that all Americans can implement in their own backyards and green spaces. More information including a complete list of workshops conducted on-site can be found at the People's Garden website.

Green Roofs
Green roofs act like giant bio-filtration sponges soaking up rain thus helping to retain storm water and reducing excess storm water runoff, which is considered one of the most serious problems facing local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. USDA headquarters has two green roofs: one over the Whitten Building and another green roof with a 500 gallon cistern on the South Building. USDA also constructed a demonstrational tool shed that homeowners can use to learn about stormwater management techniques.


USDA HQ's Info