By Bill Womeldorf

If you’ve been to Boston lately, I’m sure you have been welcomed by the presence of many cranes and construction sites. The city is currently experiencing its fastest growth rate in decades and is trying to keep up with new residential development.

However, the residential development at The Distillery in South Boston is much different than the rest of these other developments.

So what’s all the hype about this new building? The U.S. Green Building Council lead by the Residential Green Building Committee scheduled a tour with the developer, Fred Gorton of Second Street Associates, LLC, to find out more.

Resilience to Sea Level Rise: The tour started in the parking garage, which of course is not your ordinary parking garage. In fact, the whole building is raised up about a full level from the ground level below to mitigation damage against sea level rise and storm surges. Fred said he made sure to design the ground floor level as “sacrificial” to prepare his building for the years ahead. He also made a special request to the electric utility to raise all the connections to the building up a level so that a flood would not distribute the building’s resilient electric system.

Sustainable Transportation: The garage will also house a fleet of zip cars, a shareable car system popular in Boston, and free electric charging stations for EV vehicles. When the project was first started, Boston required a substantial amount of parking spaces but since then has deiced they don’t want more cars. Fred has since reduced the parking to a focus on car sharing and sustainable modes of transit like biking.

Mixed Use Community: The development will be home to a lively artist community in South Boston and will feature affordable units. It will also feature an art gallery, grocery store and a cafe that will be able to open up to the outdoors during the summer months. Fred mentioned that the placement of these attractions within the development is geared towards encouraging people to walk more and maintain an active lifestyle.

Centralized Amphitheater: The center of the development will feature a large outdoor multi-level amphitheater where the building’s residents can put on musical shows and events. The exterior porches of the units are also strategically positioned to take advantage of this and actually face towards the outdoor theater stage. Basically, you could be sitting in private on your porch, sipping tea, and watching a live band in front of you.

Edible Gardening on Site: The development is also cherishing the open land, rooftop garden, and outdoor spaces to grow vegetables and flower gardens in the summer months. Well how about the winter? Local food can still be grown on site at the three-story greenhouse located a few steps away from the new development.

Passive Design: The building is designed in such a way so that units take advantage of passive design features like solar heat gain from the sun in the summer, passive ventilation from strategic placement of windows and doors to shading devices like those on the south porches that can be controlled by the residents.

High-Performance Mechanical Systems: The heating systems for the units are air source heat pumps, which are typical for passive house developments. But what’s also important is that all the units are equipped with their own heat recovery ventilation system. This will allow the residents to be exposed to clean and filtered air. Fred has done a lot of research on the topic of the negative health effects from people living near highways and pollution. He hopes that with these ventilation systems, the residents will be sick less frequently and will also have a much more comfortable living environment.

65 Solar Powered Units: Due to the passive house construction style, the building will be requiring much less energy to maintain that the typical new development. Because of this, all the new units can be accommodated by on-site renewable energy systems. Fred also has plans to buy additional land out in Western Mass to build additional solar power for when he decides to add more units to the development.

You can learn more about the Distillery project by contacting ICON Architects or Fred Gorton. The Distillery is a 65 unit LEED-H Midrise Platinum with Passive House Certification in South Boston.

About the Author:

Bill Womeldorf is an energy efficiency designer in Boston, MA. He’s typically the one with the reusable water bottle in business meetings. When we all work together, he believes, it’s possible to solve the climate crisis. You can follow Bill on twitter @BillWomeldorf and read more about carbon neutral buildings on his blog.

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