War on Terror creates buzz

June 21, 2012

An aerial rendering of the buzzing building in Vienna, Va. (Hickock Cole Architects/Town of Vienna records)

Today’s heat wave has everyone cranking up the fans and air conditioners. But some Northern Virginia residents are reaching for ear plugs.

Seems people in a Vienna, Va., neighborhood have come to dread summer because it brings the full-scale return of that high-pitched buzzing sound coming from an unmarked, three-story, federal office building.

It sounds like a helicopter hovering about a block away, our colleague Tom Jackman reports Thursday in his blog, The State of NoVa, and it keeps buzzing, 24 hours a day.

Turns out the building houses the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, where they deal with national security data such as the no-fly list. There is likely “a lot of heavy-duty computing going on,” Jackman writes, “which needs to be kept cool while running around the clock.”

The noise comes from 23 air-conditioning units atop the building, each with 10 whirring fans. And it’s been driving residents crazy for the last two years, penetrating homes even with their windows closed and the AC going full-blast.

The neighbors have been complaining mightily, holding meetings, trying to get some relief from local and federal officials, the owner — Goldstar Group of Bethesda — and the General Services Administration. (The former tenant, the CIA, was much quieter.)

A Goldstar representative said Wednesday that they were making changes and were “optimistic” that they would reduce the noise.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.
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