At 19 stories tall and nearly 350,000 gross square feet, the BU Center for Computing & Data Sciences, to be built at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Granby Street, will be one of the biggest buildings in our 180-year history.
And with geothermal wells, state-of-the-art shading, and unusually thick windows, among other features, it will also be the University’s most sustainable, energy-efficient building ever. The building, expected to be completed sometime in 2022, will be 100 percent free of fossil fuels, an effort that aligns with the University’s broader Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce BU’s carbon emissions to zero by 2040.
Check out some of the building’s most interesting sustainable elements:
- No gas
The Center for Computing & Data Sciences will be 100 percent fossil-fuel free, the first building on any BU campus to make that claim. No gas line will be connected to it. Geothermal wells will provide the majority of the heating and cooling inside the building. Even the BU Dining Services facilities in the building will function without gas. Instead, food will be prepared with electric cooking.
- Something’s shady
The building will have cutting-edge exterior shades to control the solar heat gain inside and reduce glare that can make viewing computer screens and whiteboards particularly challenging. People inside won’t have to worry about raising or lowering the shades to suit their individual needs. The external shades will prevent heat energy from entering the building, so less cooling will be needed during the summer.
- Glass, glass, glass
The windows will be triple glazed. That means heat will stay inside the building better. And the hot or cold air outside will have a much harder time getting in. Most buildings have double-glazed windows—two layers of glass sandwiching one pocket of space filled with gas for insulation (usually argon). But triple glazing means there are three layers of glass, and two pockets of space filled with gas. And two gaps are better than one.
- No new car smell
As much as we all love the smell of a new car, it’s actually not healthy to breathe. It’s chemicals, most of them completely unnecessary. The Center for Computing & Data Sciences won’t smell like a new building—intentionally. In an effort to reduce the amount of chemicals and compounds in the air, we chose sealants and finishes for the building that have low or no volatile organic compounds.
- Stairways to heaven
Here is your choice: push a button, stand and wait, and finally step into an elevator. Or walk up a brightly lit staircase with views of the outside that are flat-out cool to look at. The hope of the center’s architects and designers is that the interior’s “irresistible staircases,” with their natural light and compelling sculptural elements, will promote physical activity. It’s an investment in the health of the people in the building by promoting walking up and down stairs rather than pushing an elevator button.
- No floods allowed
Because the center is close to the Charles River, numerous steps were taken to ensure that in the event of rising water or a sudden storm surge, the building would not be in danger of serious flood damage. BU’s Climate Action Plan establishes an “elevation of resilience,” meaning that the building is set two feet above the elevation of the Charles River dam, and the first floor is above that. In total, the building is five feet higher than the City of Boston’s suggested design guidelines for sea level rise. Generators in the building will kick in, if necessary, to prevent any flooding or freezing in the building if power were to go out.
- Sustainable means social
Sustainability is about much more than using eco-friendly materials. It’s about being socially responsible and forging connections between people. To that end, the center is designed in a way that promotes personal interaction, with plenty of compelling spaces for collaboration. And from an energy perspective, people are less likely to take the elevators if more of the spaces are used in an interactive way.