Until recently, part of Boston’s Allston neighborhood was known as a gritty place, characterized by crumbling one-story warehouses, auto body shops, and a few dive bars. But about five years ago, the Mount Vernon Company, a local developer who had been assembling property in the neighborhood, launched a plan to transform the area into a model for sustainable living. Former Mayor Thomas Menino was intrigued by the idea and made it official by designating a two-block area the Allston Green District.
“It’s a unique place unlike anything that had been done in the city of Boston before,” says David Snell of Prellwitz Chilinski Associates (PCA), the architectural firm that was engaged to plan the district and design several of its buildings.
All of the new construction in the Allston Green District incorporates sustainable practices, and PCA has worked to create a unified yet visually varied aesthetic among the apartment facades and retail sites that are opening up. One of the most striking buildings in the district, however—both visually and in terms of sustainability—is The Edge, a 79-unit LEED Platinum mid-rise. The Edge includes all the bells and whistles you would expect in a LEED Platinum building, but it also has a lot of soul. Huge floor-to-ceiling windows are found in every unit, for example, a rarity in mid-market apartments. They’re top of the line in terms of efficiency, but they create a biophilic vibe of “bringing the outdoors in,” says Snell.
Location Boston, MA
Client The Mount Vernon Company
Size 84,551 ft 2 (plus 13,182 ft 2 parking garage) Completion August 2013
Program 79 rental apartments
Certification LEED for Homes Platinum Certified
Cost $17.5 million
Architect Prellwitz Chilinski Associates
General Contractor Cranshaw Construction Owner’s Project Manager Waypoint Construction Consultants, Inc.
MEP/FP Engineer AKF Group
Structural Engineer Roome & Guarracino LLC
Landscape Architect UBLA
HVAC Aqua Therm
Windows Inline Fiberglass
Cabinets Metropolitan Cabinets
Doors Woodgrain Doors
Lighting Fixtures Reflex Lighting
Paints and Sealants Sherwin Williams
PV System Solect
COMMITTING TO SUSTAINABILITY
When residents move into one of the new apartment buildings in the Allston Green District, they sign a Green Declaration as part of their lease. This states that they commit to minimizing energy and water use, separating recyclables and organic waste and using alternative transportation, among other eco-conscious practices at the household level. “If you’re a member of the Green District, you need to walk the walk,” Snell says. “You can build a building sustainably, but if the people who are living in it aren’t living that way, you’ve only made it half way.”
The Allston Green District is on Commonwealth Avenue, a major Boston thoroughfare with numerous bus and transit options. There is an MBTA stop at the entrance of the district, and the city recently added a “Hubway”—one of Boston’s bikeshare stations— in response to the influx of alternative transportation-oriented residents. There is bike storage for every unit at The Edge, and with a small grocery store, restaurant, and other shopping destinations opening up, the bones of a walkable community are falling into place. “It’s really amazing to see where it was and where it is today,” Snell says. “There are interesting people here who really care about the vision.”
WATER CONSERVATION AND CULTURE
The Edge has low-flow toilets and other water-saving plumbing components, but unlike most apartment buildings of its size, tenants pay their own water bills. “Because the developer wants people to be conscious of the amount of water they’re using, they decided to individually meter the water in each unit,” Snell says, adding that “the owner hates plastic water bottles, too, so we’ve installed hydration stations on every floor, so you can get filtered water right from the wall.” Not only that, but when you sign the Green Declaration upon moving in, you get a water bottle branded with the Green District logo. “It’s not on the LEED check-list,” says Snell, “but it’s more about a mindset.”
HOTOVOLTAIC INCENTIVES AT WORK
AKF Group, a renowned international engineering firm known for its work on LEED projects of varying scales and complexity, served as the mechanical engineer for The Edge, helping to design the HVAC system and other behind the scenes gadgetry. One important component that residents don’t see, but certainly appreciate, is the 35-kilowatt rooftop photovoltaic array. The PV system, which was designed and installed by Solect, produces 60 to 70% of the energy used in the building’s common areas. With two federal tax credits available and two state level incentives, the system was planned to pay for itself within four years. But, according to Matt Shortsleeve of Solect, energy prices have gone up 30% since the system was installed, cranking down the payback period even further. With the convergence of incentives for solar and high energy prices, “business is brisk,” says Shortsleeve.