Record crowd and award entries illuminate Massachusetts green building momentum
Over 275 people gathered in a raw space in the Amazon L4 Tower to celebrate groundbreaking progress transforming the built environment into healthy, sustainable, and regenerative spaces for all people to live, learn, work, and connect within. Hosted by WS Development, the event highlighted their exciting transformation of the Seaport neighborhood creating new public spaces and enriched pedestrian access to the waterfront.
The 2023 Green Building Showcase was bigger than the 2017 showcase which was cross-promoted with the national Greenbuild conference taking place in Boston, and drew an increase of nearly 50% in award entries over the previous year’s record. The competition was fierce and inspiring. The quality of project submissions demonstrates the accelerating pace of market transformation towards a sustainable and regenerative built environment, led by policy, practice, and shifting priorities.
The annual awards program is an incredible snapshot of the leading edge in green building practices. Judges from across the country selected the standout projects, while local judges chose a Change Agent of the Year recognizing someone making a significant positive impact on the environment, social equity, and the economy.
For the second year in a row, HMFH Architects won the prestigious Green Building of the Year award for a public school building. The Annie E. Fales Elementary School in Westborough is the first net-positive energy public school in Massachusetts.
GREEN BUILDING OF THE YEAR
Annie E. Fales Elementary School
Submitted by HMFH Architects
Nestled within the hillside, the new Fales Elementary School reflects its local ecology in a child-centric educational environment that promotes curiosity and hands-on learning. The design embraces this challenging sloped site as an opportunity to improve building performance and demonstrate environmental stewardship. The facility maintains a compact footprint comprised of two floors that enable natural light to reach all interior learning spaces and provide the roof area for solar. Design elements inspired by the school’s natural setting encourage students to actively engage with their surroundings and fosters appreciation for the environment.
Whimsical, storybook-style graphics depict the beloved Fales mascot, Annie the Hedgehog, as she travels through local ecosystems, encountering various native flora and fauna. These graphics captivate students’ imaginations, strengthen their connection to nature, and cultivate a lively and engaging educational environment. Light-filled interiors and thoughtful integration into the neighborhood establish Fales as a vibrant, climate-conscious place.
Academic spaces are organized into four distinct neighborhoods, each represented by a different local ecosystem—forest, meadow, marshland, and pond. Classrooms in each neighborhood feature clerestory windows shaped by the school’s sawtooth roof that direct daylight into the space and reinforce the strong connection to nature with striking views of the sky above. An undulating pattern of windows creates a playful and intimate scale for the young students and focused views of nature.
The building tells a compelling story while actively demonstrating the important connections buildings, specifically public schools play within a community while connecting to and integrating with the natural environment. The studies performed by the design team have made Fales capable of generating 11.6% more energy than required to operate the all-electric school. The design achieves this ambitious target by reducing energy use with high efficiency geothermal building systems and producing energy on-site with a 25,000 square foot rooftop solar array.
Here’s what the judges had to say: “This is a very strong example of holistic, integrated, thoughtful design. If school designers across the country emulated this approach, the world would be a better place. We especially appreciated the integrated approach to the design of the roof to accommodate both solar arrays and daylight; the biophilic approach to the building’s interaction with the site; and the ecologically rich storytelling. It’s great to see energy positive performance in a publicly funded school project. The focus on connecting kids to nature will reap huge benefits for the students and teachers. With nearly 62% of the occupied spaces receiving good daylight and 92% with quality views, the project shows a strong commitment to health and wellness for both the students and the teachers.”
GREEN HOME OF THE YEAR
Shawme Lake Passive House
Submitted by Kaplan Thompson Architects
Our clients purchased a small but covetable lot hugging Shawme Lake and the Sandwich Heritage Museums and Gardens. They envisioned building a Passive House with modern appeal, but were faced with complex site restrictions and the historic district’s strict aesthetic guidelines for new construction.
We were asked to reconcile contradicting goals for both form and function by designing a residence that was classic yet contemporary, ambitious in performance yet challenged by its setting.
The property was the last in its neighborhood to be developed, a tight site flanked closely by neighbors, public conservation land to the west, the road to the south, and a wooded lake to the east. It’s triangular shape and sloping topography complicated options for the structure’s footprint, as did the requirement of a south-facing roofline to support a solar array. With consideration given to needs for space, privacy, and Passive-House potential, the home was divided into two angled masses: a trapezoid and an asymmetric pentagon.
To win approval by the historic committee, we visually regularized the irregularly-shaped structure by joining the geometries beneath a straight and sweeping roof plane. Two perpendicular gables disguise the many elevations and cut-ins beneath them and maintain simplicity of form. From the street, the home presents as a single-story residence with modest glazing, mirroring the context of surrounding houses.
With the business in the front settled, we adopted a party-in-the-back quality for the rest of the project. Large banks of high-performance glass run along the more private facades, opening views to the lake and accessing a network of covered and exposed outdoor spaces.
Passive House Certified and currently achieving Net Zero Energy on an annual basis, the project also stands to provide lasting comfort for occupants at a minimal cost and without the use of fossil fuels.
According to the judges, “This is a great example of how passive house excellence can be beautifully Modern even in a historic neighborhood with contextual constraints. We really like this as a model because it shows how a simple form, standard building science principles, and precise execution of construction details can produce quality and performance.”
CARBON & ENERGY
Submitted by Arrowstreet
Designed as the first net zero energy and water school in Massachusetts, the 175,000 SF Boardwalk Campus, opened in August 2022, serves as a new model for sustainable, healthy, and resilient schools for communities across the country. The building is home to two elementary schools and a preschool.
Consistent with the district’s school choice philosophy, every elementary school has its own character and focus. The planning and educational visioning focused on how to provide equity among the schools coupled with support for Special Education Services and maximizing shared spaces, such as cafeteria, gym, and STEAM labs.
The design serves the well-being of all occupants from the youngest learners to the greater community. Biophilic design elements include natural materials and colors, daylight, views, and graphics. Enhanced indoor air quality, acoustics, thermal comfort, universal design, and Red List Free, low-emitting materials are used throughout the interior further supporting well-being.
Located by Fort Pond Brook, the school design is carefully sited to minimize impact on the site and celebrate the ecosystem of the adjacent wetlands. An existing boardwalk was rebuilt to offer a more user-friendly experience with a new covered boardwalk, almost twice the original width, offering space for bicycle and pedestrian traffic.
The boardwalk provides a vital connection across the site and a learning opportunity for students and the community. It is part of the site-wide learning trail with educational signage featuring sustainability, resilience, and wellness aspects of the site and building. This is paired with similar environmental graphics on the inside of the building. The district has a robust sustainability and climate curriculum and the graphic design team worked closely with the educators to develop the signage and digital interface to support their programs.
The jury commented, “loved the comprehensive sustainable considerations of the compact 3-story school, from net zero energy and water, to embodied carbon reductions, on-site batteries, and a passive house level of airtightness. This is a highly replicable model for low-carbon sustainable schools that also integrates resilience principles.“
HEALTH & WELLNESS
Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center
Patient Care Pavilion
Submitted by HDR
Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center is located on a picturesque 225-acre campus in the Upper Connecticut River Valley in New Hampshire. The site is surrounded by the White Mountains to the north and the Connecticut River to the east. The new patient care pavilion anchors the north end of the existing structure while providing a fresh take on the campus vernacular. Its form, massing, and materiality are inspired by the local context, including sunlight between the trees, stone in the mountains, and the flow of local rivers and streams.
The five-story pavilion takes advantage of its elevated site and natural setting. The building’s curved form defines a welcoming arrival sequence, optimizing views to nature from the patient rooms. The V-shaped plan connects to existing buildings, while creating new usable spaces and exterior courtyards that serve as areas of respite. Inside, these new exterior spaces provide natural light and visual interest to public spaces and patient rooms.
The building is comprised of three components: base, patient pavilion, and connector to the existing structure. The base houses the main entrance and public amenities. Its materials–natural stone and glass–create a comfortable, bright, and cheerful environment extending the calm of the natural environment indoors. The patient pavilion is clad in a ribbed rain-screen panel system with window openings that create a dynamic pattern.
Interior materials were selected based on criteria including health, durability, and cleanability. The basis is a palette of neutral materials that remain for the life of the building, layered with warm bright accents in furniture, art, and wayfinding. Accents of reclaimed wood from local New England barns were used to highlight destination points and bring warmth to the space. Lighting and form were used to reinforce wayfinding, direct views to the outside, and support circadian rhythm to promote healing.
The judges commented, “This project won in the category of Health and Wellness because it is designed to support the mental and physical health of all building occupants including staff, patients, and visitors. Specific strategies of note are the creation of staff respite spaces, the adaptability of ventilation and temperature in the patient rooms, the integration of spaces to meet the needs of families that travel great distances for healthcare, and integration of WELL building features. While the judges found the project impressive, we were concerned that there was not more transparency regarding the materials that will be used beyond some general statements that materials selections are based on “health, durability and cleanability.”
EQUITY & INCLUSION
Submitted by Studio G Architects
E+ Highland will be built on city-owned land after an intensive neighborhood community process set the development goals, selected the team and reviewed the design. It responds to Highland Park neighborhood’s goals to prevent displacement, provide current neighborhood residents a homeownership path, and be Boston’s most sustainable neighborhood.
To prevent displacement of current residents and support their economic mobility, E+ Highland is 100% affordable: all 23 units at 30 to 60% AMI in a limited equity co-op. Low-income residents build financial equity with no money down while affordability is maintained for future residents.
The façade features a masonry and wood-like material palette reflecting the surrounding homes. A dramatic canopy shaped for PV array welcomes residents and visitors. Community amenities include a gallery/gathering space and adjacent patio for neighbors and residents to share and a public path and stair that links neighbors up and down Fort Hill to area parks and public transit.
Daylit units feature large operable windows and red-list free finishes selected for occupant well-being, beauty, and durability. All-electric systems with energy recovery ventilation provides a healthy indoor environment, removing pollutants and irritants.
Designed to achieve net positive energy, LEED Platinum, Phius, and ILFI Zero Energy Certification, E+ Highland will provide resilient, healthy, and affordable family housing.
Technical advancements to meet energy-positive and resiliency goals include airtight passive building techniques, optimizing window/wall ratio, and targeting a thermal-bridge-free enclosure. The hot water system uses CO2 refrigerant with zero Ozone Depletion Potential.
Renewable energy is maximized with a high efficiency rooftop PV wave rack system. Residents will have minimal utility costs and maintain comfort for 5+ days in a power outage.
The judges highlighted, “Not only are 100% of the units affordable, aiming to prevent displacement and supporting upward economic mobility in the neighborhood, but the project is also designed with ambitious sustainability goals – to achieve net positive energy, utilize energy efficient and resilient building components and systems, and materials that address the negative impacts buildings can have on the health of their occupants and the planet.”
SITE & LANDSCAPE
Northland Newton Site Design
Submitted by Stantec Architecture
Northland Newton Development is an innovative national model of sustainability, affordable housing, transit demand management, historic preservation, open space, master planning, and community amenities. This 22-acre mixed-use development introduces 10 acres of public open space and parks and 1.5 acres of green roofs and amenity decks; transforming a classic New England strip mall and its associated sea of parking into a lively neighborhood interconnected with open green spaces that will serve residents and employees living and working in the neighborhood, as well as visitors from the surrounding area.
Inviting plazas emerge from lush, planted areas, as if they had always been there. The design for each space was inspired by historic and natural site features and together creates a vibrant, desirable, and walkable community. A nuanced yet cohesive native planting palette provides visual interest seasonally as well as significantly improving the existing ecology and contribute to the regional ecosystem.
The judges commented, “This project has been awarded the top honor in the Site and Landscape category for its unwavering commitment to design excellence, seamlessly bridging the worlds of architecture and nature to foster genuine ecological harmony, all while fostering substantial positive social and environmental benefits. A cornerstone of this project’s success lies in its key strategies, which encompass the careful design and masterful implementation of green roofs, amenity decks, and plazas. These elements have been meticulously crafted to not only nurture a sense of community but also to pay tribute to the site’s rich historical and natural heritage. This thoughtful choice is poised to yield a healthier and safer space, ensuring the well-being of both present and future generations.”
SUSTAINABLE BUILDING OPERATIONS
Access to Live Waste Intelligence
Submitted by Spare-it
It is impossible to change something you don’t measure and the only waste data we have today is a mix of dumpster data and manual waste audits.
The Spare-it and Boston University sustainability teams partnered to deploy the Spare-it waste intelligence platform in the new CCDS.
For the first time, the platform enables access to bin quantitative and qualitative at scale. All bins are weighted in real time, assessed for contamination by stream, and geolocalized.
Together Spare-it and BU are closing the loop, displaying the data to students and faculties to help them improve sourcing and sorting toward True Zero Certification.
The judges said “Spare-it makes it easy to understand and track waste without significant cost or technology add. This will essentially help lower waste generated, understand contamination and transition to a more circular economy.”
SUSTAINABLE BUILDING RENOVATION
Roxbury Branch of the Boston Public Library Renovation
Submitted by Utile, Inc.
The Roxbury Branch of the Boston Public Library is located in Nubian Square in the heart of Boston’s historic Black community. Designed in 1978 by Kallmann and McKinnell Architects, the original Brutalist building was disconnected from its surroundings and had outdated systems and building envelope. The 27,000 square foot renovation has four primary design goals driven by community input: capture the same sense of awe and wonder that comes from reading a book; provide a welcoming space for connecting to community; expand the library as a center of knowledge production with innovative programming; and re-align the building to meet 21st century sustainability goals.
The new entrance and public plaza strengthen the library’s connection to Nubian Square. A new timber curtain wall replacing the original glass block outwardly displays the vibrant programming of the library while providing a much-needed visual connection to the sidewalk, trees, and sky for patrons. The new facade brings daylight deep into the heart of the library while minimizing solar gains.
The renovation builds on the branch’s role as a circulating neighborhood library and a vital resource for computer and internet access. The new African-American collection is prominently located at the front door overlooking Nubian Square. The Nutrition Lab incorporates residential appliances for cooking demonstrations and nutrition instruction, and the Learning Lab is a flexible room that converts to a makerspace. Warm wood accents and furnishings contribute to a monumental but inviting civic space.
The renovation transforms one of Boston’s most energy-intensive branches to one of its most efficient with new glazing, insulation, and roofing while preserving the exposed exterior concrete structure of the 1970s design. An EUI reduction of 40% compared to pre-renovation also brings a dramatic increase in the comfort of the space with new HVAC systems, abundant natural light, and sophisticated lighting controls.
According to the judges, “The Boston Public Library, Roxbury Branch is a beautiful example of transforming Brutalist architecture into a healthy, biophilic, welcoming, and high-performing space, while respecting the original design and working closely with the community to include their perspective on the form and function. The new, bigger windows, better envelope and celebrated natural materials transforms the building into a welcoming, comfortable and engaging community asset.”
SUSTAINABLE CONSTRUCTION INNOVATION
A Path to Net Zero
Submitted by Highland Park Technologies
Highland Park Technologies is a grant-funded R+D company working on low carbon affordable approaches for Deep Energy Retrofits. Founded around the 2021 Triple Decker Challenge – MassCEC’s open invitation to harness building energy retrofit expertise to identify scalable strategies for electrification – HP Tech is developing a bio-based retrofit cladding system with superior structural, thermal, and moisture performance. The wood fiber panel and insulated mounting system offer an alternative to the foam-based cladding products currently available. The panels and mounting system are intended for wood framed multifamily buildings fewer than five stories.
Residential and commercial buildings are responsible for 40% of the energy consumed in the United States, and roughly a third of the nation’s spent electricity. Electric heating and cooling promise a cleaner power source, but will strain the nation’s grid if not paired with a dramatic reduction of energy consumption. Older buildings can facilitate considerable wasted energy through air leakage and ineffective insulation of exterior walls. To reduce building energy consumption and meet national climate goals, innovative, cost‐effective, recladding technologies must be deployed on existing structures.
HP Tech has settled on wood fiber board as the optimal material for insulated cladding. In the US, nearly all prefabricated panelized products derive their insulating value from foam, which is neither good for long term health nor low in embodied carbon. Europe has been using wood fiber as loose insulation and board for decades. In addition to the positive impact on human health, wood fiber is recyclable, easy to customize, and can be the final finished surface on a building, with infinite color and pattern potential.
HP Tech’s workflow starts with a 3D scan using digital fabrication to drive off-site workflow. The end result is a kit of easy to install parts that allows a small multi-family to be reclad in a week. The assembly targets R15-20, and is aiming for an installed cost of $10-20/sf.
Here is what the judges had to say: “Highland Park Technologies developed a wood fiber panel as an alternative to petrochemical-intensive retrofit cladding. The panels offer a low-carbon solution for deep multifamily retrofits. Key attributes that make this entry a winner include 3D scans to collect existing data, ease of installation, replicability/affordability, lightweight, applicable to low-income housing, and customized for a variety of design styles.”
SUSTAINABLE INTERIOR FIT-OUT
Kendall Square Workspace
Submitted by Utile, Inc.
Located in the heart of Kendall Square, this project includes amenities from cafes to event spaces, workspace, and support areas. Workspace comprises 70% of the building, while two floors each dedicated to event and food spaces are located at the bottom and top of the tower, connecting co-workers across departments with food and special events.
The workspace floors offer various layouts suited to different working styles. Adjacent floors are paired with interconnecting stairs to allow team sizes to flex and grow over multiple floors. Paired floors explore different planning strategies for meeting room locations, support spaces, and offices, while always prioritizing natural daylight for the open workspace. The evolution of technology became the primary narrative with subtopics selected for floor pairings. These became the inspirations for material selections, articulation of design elements, and the look and feel of the various floors. This approach was instrumental in achieving a variety of aesthetic outcomes and dynamic surroundings for the various teams that occupy the floors.
The food floors emphasize healthy eating and nutrition, with open kitchens, cooking classes, and a warm environment that promotes social interaction as users craft their own meal experiences. Anchored by two large meeting spaces serving external (broadcasts, galas, etc), and internal engagements (workshops, and training), the event floor features sweeping views of the Boston region. Moveable furniture, dynamic signage, and intentional use of color allow for the space to be fully flexible to meet the needs of any given presentation.
Elements consistent throughout the tower include high-performing and energy efficient building systems, finely tuned acoustics, bold and playful use of colors, a balance of hard and soft materials, and the use of biophilia to achieve physical comfort and wellness all for the benefit of the end users.
The Judges weighed in, “This is an outstanding workplace! We were impressed with the project’s contribution to the Kendall Square community, providing high quality public space and public events. We also appreciated the many project design features that promote biophilia, comfort, and well-being. The landlord and tenant seem to have a positive collaboration, which is refreshing to see.”
STUDENT PROJECT OF THE YEAR
Analyzing Construction Data to Develop Sustainable Reporting Framework
Submitted by Drushti Shah
The judges commented “We were very impressed with the amount of data that had to be identified and analyzed; it was a tremendous undertaking.
As noted in the submission addressing the impact of the construction industry is critical in the fight against climate change. The data analysis and the development of a Sustainability Reporting Framework enables better and more accessible management of the available data. Additionally, the reporting framework supports a dashboard interface for increased transparency, ongoing analysis and feedback and opportunities for comparisons which can help inform improvements within the industry.
The development of this reporting framework will support the construction industry in identifying critical areas on which to focus for mitigating environmental impact.”
PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD
Submitted by Stantec Architecture
The first net-zero, carbon-neutral conversion of an existing building of this scale in Massachusetts.
CHANGE AGENT OF THE YEAR
Congratulations to Jane Carbone, recently retired as the Director of Development at Homeowners Rehab Inc., for her powerful legacy in the green building world.
According to her nominator, “Jane not only pushed the envelope when it came to new construction, she also cared deeply for renovating to a high-efficiency standard and working with property management to establish a green spec for unit turnover and maintenance. Jane went further than providing a healthy living environment and educated residents on materials and equipment to get the most from these items. Jane spent her career building and maintaining affordable housing to the highest standards of design and sustainability.”
Experience our 2023 Green Building Showcase as a Digital Gallery
Thank you to our Amazing Judges!
AIA, FAIA, LEED Fellow Principal
Director of Sustainable Design | LMN Architects
Senior Sustainability Manager | JLL
AIA, LEED Fellow, WELL AP, FwA
Sustainable Design Director | Regional Leader | Climate Action + Sustainability | Gensler
Hon.AIA, LEED AP
Kira Gould CONNECT
LEED AP BD+C
Senior Sustainability Wizard | TLC Engineering Solutions
LEED AP BD+C, AIA
Principal | Global Sustainability Leader | NBBJ
Monica L. Nakielski
ESG and Sustainability Advisor
Managing Principal of The Manya Group |
Dr PH Candidate | Colorado School of Public Health
AIA, LEED Fellow
Principal Emeritus | SERA Architects
FAIA, LEED Fellow
Director of Sustainability and Lead of the K-12 Community Studio |
The WRNS Studio
LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP
Sustainability Manager | Webcor Builders
Senior Job Captain | Associate | RMW Architecture & Interiors