National Industries for the Blind

  • Client
    National Industries for the Blind
  • Location
    Alexandria, VA
  • Size
Corner view of brick and glass building

Project Brief

National Industries for the Blind (NIB), the largest employment resource for blind people in the United States, fights to enhance opportunities for personal and economic independence for the blind. To continue to meet the needs of their employees and customers, NIB sought a state-of-the-art headquarters that marked an investment in their future, and DAVIS was able to help them achieve their goal. The 110,000-SF building, completed in late 2018, exemplifies NIB’s mission by providing an environment with open interiors, flexible work spaces, and top-level technology.

This building was the very first project to begin work in The Exchange at Potomac Yard, the new anchor of commercial development in Alexandria, VA. Adjacent to the Potomac Yard Metro Station and close to a block of new apartments and restaurants, NIB’s new headquarters is a central piece of a burgeoning neighborhood with accessibility to the visually impaired. The building is also home to a Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, built out by the DAVIS Healthcare team. 

Our extraordinary project team was able to take on a challenging building process that included a large-scale excavation, implement creative design techniques, and give NIB a beautiful, comfortable home.

Going Deeper Than Ever Before

This project required a 60-foot excavation, which was a daunting task to take on. No construction team had ever dug that deep in the Potomac Yard area before! However, our team was ready for the challenge—or, as we soon found out, several challenges.

The Potomac Yard has an incredible history as one of the most popular railway hubs in the United States—in the 1940s, it handled 6,000 freight cars a day. After digging into the hole, we encountered some remnants of that history, though, in the form of contaminated soils. Our team dug through petroleum and arsenic for the first twenty feet of the excavation, the entire top third of the hole. The obstacles didn’t stop there, though. Located about 400 yards from the Potomac River, our project site was in an amazing location. However, about forty feet into the excavation, we found that very same river in our hole. This groundwater created some difficulties for our team—the unstable ground made the environment less safe for our workers, and our strategy was impacted. We had about twenty feet to go to complete our excavation, but the water and silt in our hole made it so we could only dig one foot at a time. After successfully dewatering the area, though, our team was able to finish the task and get out of the hole with a 60-foot-excavation off the checklist.

A New Home In A New Place

NIB is an 82-year-old organization with a storied history and an impressive portfolio of career training programs for the visually impaired. So when our team set out to build their new home, we worked diligently to give them the best one possible—a beautiful environment that servers as a functional, comfortable place to work for both blind and sighted employees and guests.

The seven-floor building is immediately impressive—the ground floor features a 3,700-SF lobby area with ample access to natural light and artificial light fixtures that read “NIB” in Braille, bringing a pleasant feeling to anyone entering the building. Our team also built an expansive 10,000-SF space which NIB uses to host trainings and events. Conference rooms on the second floor boast high-end furniture and finishes, as well as a striking view of the Potomac River. Our team was proud to build a facility worthy of the important role NIB plays in empowering the blind community, and modern accessibility features were installed throughout the space. Notches are included at counters for canes to rest, elevators are user-friendly, and multi-textured floors and carpets were put in place.

The new wave of development at Potomac Yard is exciting for the city of Alexandria, and the NIB headquarters was the spark that set it off. The future Potomac Yard Metro station means a great deal to many businesses in the area, but access to reliable public transportation is especially meaningful to NIB. DAVIS is proud to be working on other projects in this burgeoning hotspot, including Kaiser Permanente’s office in the very same building we built for NIB! Additionally, we’re in construction at the Institute for Defense Analyses headquarters, and the APTA Centennial Center, which sits right next to NIB’s building. This project was special because we brought a new home to a great organization. The headquarters serves as an investment in NIB’s future, and further entrenches their commitment to the blind community.