Through industrial innovation and emerging technologies, traditional design obstacles are morphing into efficiency outcomes. For example, AI & simulation technologies enabling generative design use cases can increase operational efficiency, brought into the physical product world via additive manufacturing.
Significant design challenges faced CBT Architects & Skanska in constructing PTC's new home in Boston’s Seaport District. Obstacles included the MBTA underground Silver Line operating under the proposed building structure, building height restrictions subject to Federal Aviation Administration requirements, zoning guidelines and procedures, budgetary limitations and potential climate impacts that come with properties alongside the waterfront.
However, these challenges drove 121 Seaport toward achieving greater operational efficiency and has been recognized as one of the greenest buildings in the U.S.
In November 2018, PTC’s new 121 Seaport office received the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design's (LEED) highest certification of Platinum.
Starting with the exterior of the 17-story and 440,000 square foot building is its unique elliptical shape that stands out among the many adjacent square-shaped commercial and residential buildings in the Innovation District. The curvature of 121 Seaport has lowered construction and material costs through a 10% reduction in building envelope linear footage (surface area). Its shape also produces energy savings of 15% through lowering surface area exposure to the sun, which can result in unanticipated HVAC temperature adjustments. The building’s underlying infrastructure benefits from the aerodynamic elliptical design through reducing wind drag from fierce Boston Harbor winds. The building’s small shadow footprint also allows more natural light to pass through to nearby public spaces.
The structure itself optimizes its environmental surroundings with a 40,000-gallon cistern collecting rain water for non-potable usage including low-flow plumbing.
Further flowing efficiency into the building is a next-generation HVAC chilled beam mechanical system that redistributes airflow; the technology is nascent in the United States but can substantially lower energy costs in the long term. Other features reducing operational costs are a curtain wall system with low solar heat gain coefficient glass and an energy recovery system that recycles building exhaust air to pre-treat ventilation air.
These innovative systems have given 121 Seaport a perfect score in LEED’s categories for water efficiency, innovation (including innovation in design), and regional priority. The building has received nearly perfect scores for sustainable sites, which includes alternative transportation (121 has close proximity to local transit options and parking for 270 vehicles and 270 bicycles). LEED has also recognized 121 Seaport for perfect scores in recycled content, regional materials, low-emitting materials, green power and construction waste management.
The chilled beam system and other design innovations underpinning 121 Seaport have earned the structure LEED Platinum status for Building Design and Construction: Core and Shell. Of the approximately 10,000 LEED certifications given out for ‘Core and Shell’, only around 450 (less than 5%) have received the highest certification (Platinum), with four being in Boston.
While Boston is undoubtedly an emerging technology hub, the city and its structures have not been at the forefront of energy efficiency. According to City data research, 20% of every building in Boston built since 2012 has failed to meet energy efficiency standards. Socially responsible companies will continue to attract diverse talent pools and business opportunities.