Boston’s first LEED Platinum building to become energy positive

Behnisch Architekten says its design for the EpiCenter Expansion in Boston may make it the largest commercial energy-positive building on the US east coast (Image: Behnisch Architekten)

A high-sustainability design has been released for an expanded building in the US. Behnisch Architekten says that Boston's EpiCenter will become the largest energy-positive commercial building in New England and perhaps on the East Coast. The building will house youth charity Artists for Humanity.

Behnisch specializes in sustainable architecture and featured in the AIA's 2014 top ten green buildings in the US. The firm's design for the John and Frances Angelos Law Center maximizes natural ventilation and daylight, as well as collecting water for re-use. The EpiCenter Expansion will also make use of natural ventilation and daylight, along with a variety of other innovative technologies.

According to Behnisch, the EpiCenter was Boston’s first LEED Platinum building when it opened in 2004. Ten years on, a major renovation will see the building's footprint rise from 23,500 sq ft (2,200 sq m) to 87,000 sq ft (8,100 sq m). New facilities will include space for more more youth artists, more gallery space and new studios. Also planned, with a view to their opening onto a new 1.5 acre (6,070 sq m) public park, are a retail store and a café.

Although the building design is very much at a preliminary stage with features and figures yet to be finalized, Behnisch has provided Gizmag with an outline of the planned features for ensuring it is both low impact and able to feed electricity back into the grid.

To begin, the construction process will ensure the responsible use of materials. In particular, materials that are recycled, locally sourced and low in volatile organic compounds will be used where possible.

The structure itself will be constructed in such a way as to benefit from "passive solar tempering," or moderating internal warmth via its orientation to natural sunlight throughout the day. Frontages will use special glass to control the amount of heat radiation allowed through. Additional daylight enhancement and redirection technology in the glass will further help to regulate the internal temperature and provide better natural lighting inside. A high thermal mass will help the building to maintain temperature stability, as will high levels of insulation and airtightness.

Amongst the features in place to actively reduce energy usage will be high-efficiency building systems, such as those used to ensure heat recovery. A stormwater management system is also planned with a view to possible graywater reuse.

Energy-saving light fixtures and LED lighting will be used throughout, along with daylight-responsive lighting controls. All lighting will be actively managed to ensure it is not being used when not required, for example, by switching lights off after a certain time or when rooms are unoccupied.

The EpiCenter Expansion will also have technology in place to generate its own electricity. Both photovoltaic and thermal solar arrays are planned, as well as geothermal generation. Although Behnisch has been confident in its prediction about the building's energy-positive credentials, it is not yet able to provide figures for the amount of energy that is expected to be generated or to be fed back into the grid.

The EpiCenter Expansion is expected to open in November 2016.

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