Reflections of Green

March 1, 2004
The new Genzyme Center exemplifies a spirit of innovation, collaboration and transparency.
Design FlashReflections of GreenBehnisch, Behnisch & Partner create the new Genzyme Center to exemplify its client's spirit of innovations, collaboration and transparency in both form and function.Garden interiors, a sparkling atrium and fields of color distinguish the Genzyme Center, an innovative new building in Cambridge, MA, and the new home for a global biotechnology company. One of the first large-scale North American buildings to incorporate European environmental building technology, it was designed by Behnisch, Behnisch & Partner, Inc. to target a platinum LEED rating.The building features a distinctively animated curtain-wall façade, garden-like interior spaces and ecologically sustainable systems. The 350,000-square-foot, 12-story office building illustrates the commitment of developer, client and architect to high quality design. In addition to providing an optimal work environment, the building achieves high standards in ecological and energy efficiency. As the first building to be occupied in the Lyme Properties Kendall Square Development, it will also play a key role in the transformation of a contaminated brownfield site into a thriving, mixed-use urban community.Behnisch, Behnisch & Partner, an international full-service practice with offices in Stuttgart, Germany and Los Angeles, CA, won the Genzyme Center commission through an international competition in 2000. In designing the building—their first in the U.S. that utilizes the advanced sustainable design techniques found in many of their European designs—the architects worked closely with the client and tenant to create a building that exemplified Genzyme's spirit of innovation, collaboration and transparency in both form and function. In addition to ecological sustainability, the clients sought a signature building with a welcoming appearance, open circulation, natural light and distinct public and private spaces."A building is truly sustainable only if both the base building and the tenant improvements within it are responsible," says Stefan Behnisch, partner/principal of the firm. "Everything must be in tune—from the climate systems to furnishings and the office equipment."Creating an anchor for future urban development, Genzyme Center's sturdy, cube-like volume balances a solid form with an energized façade and interior spaces. The exterior is punctuated by a corner tower and a series of panels continuing the horizontal banding from the office façade. The glass curtain-wall belies the building's solid massing with lightness and transparency. Multi-hued curtains and sun-protective blinds combine with a series of glass and metal types, making the building a kaleidoscope of color. When the blinds and curtains are open, the façade is intermittently animated by the interactions of people, plantings and furniture inside. Exterior garden terraces add to the façade's ever-changing composition of depth, transparency and reflection.Enhancing the experience of workers and visitors, the architects focused on creating an invigorating interior environment. The building is organized in an open, flexible manner around a grand atrium. This interior courtyard space connects all floors and allows daylight to flow into interior spaces, bouncing off a large, hanging sculpture made of reflective materials. Looking up through the atrium, visitors catch glimpses of a sky-blue graphic pattern on the ceilings of upper floors.Interior gardens on each floor become flexible spaces for a variety of functions—from casual conversations to alternative meeting sites. Covered gardens on the building's exterior give workers the ability to go outside for breaks during the day.The building's lower floors include a welcoming public domain that provides a new attraction for the neighborhood. Both visitors and employees pass through gardens with trees and flowing water elements as they move into the mezzanine reception area. Above the public levels, office floors feature an open floor plan, allowing for the development of varied spatial configurations. Furniture and partitions can be used to create community squares, connecting paths and multi-functional garden parks as well as private offices and cubicles.To combat rising energy costs, Genzyme Center's design adopts an energy concept that lowers running maintenance and energy costs while providing for a more appealing, natural atmosphere for building users.The building takes great advantage of natural daylight, with many offices located on the perimeter to gain direct access to natural light. The atrium space also acts as a light refractor with the hanging sculpture as well as strategically located heliostats, mirrors and reflective surfaces bouncing light through the interior. Even interior cubicles are partly transparent, permitting light to filter through. These features allow approximately 75 percent of employees to work using only natural light.The open atrium also helps to ventilate the building naturally, exhausting hot air directly out through the roof. Sophisticated shading devices work with the highly insulated glazed façade to provide optimum protection from solar heat gain in the summer. The double-skinned façade that covers 32 percent of the building acts as additional ventilation in summer and as greenhouses that maximize solar gain in winter. Concrete slab construction, roof-mounted solar panels and a cooling system that uses waste steam from a nearby power plant to cool the building adds to the Genzyme Center's energy efficiency, allowing it to use an estimated 25 percent less energy than a comparable building.A green roof featuring living vegetation helps to eliminate storm water runoff, while water sensors in the gardens reduce unnecessary water usage. These elements result in an estimated 30 percent savings on water use.Finally, more than 75 percent of the building materials use recycled content and more than half of the materials are from local sources. All wood used in the construction is forest-certified, and 90 percent of all construction waste was recycled.

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