Smart, resource-efficient buildings aren’t just for the young and hip anymore. Atria, one of the largest senior-living providers in the country, has put an exclamation point on that thought with the completion of its first LEED Gold facility this year: Woodbriar Place in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Housing more than 21,000 seniors at 179 communities in the United States and Canada, Atria is known for its top-quality care and elegantly designed senior campuses, but the company is now raising the bar for the senior housing industry with the adoption of green practices across its portfolio.

Program Senior living facility Size 125,000 ft2
Completion 2013
Certification LEED Gold

CLIENT Atria Senior Living
Architect EGA Architects
Interior Designer Wellesley Design Consultants
Landscape Architect HBLA
Civil Engineer Holmes and McGrath
General Contractor J.K Scanlan Company
Architectural Woodwork J.C. Clocks Company

FLOORING Creative Touch Interiors
Appliances Daniels Equipment Company
Windows Harvey Industries
Doors Kamco Supply Corp.
Lumber National Lumber Company
Play Equipment Henderson Recreation

Atria counts five LEED buildings in its family of independent living, assisted living, and memory care facilities, but “Woodbriar Place is our crown jewel,” says Kevin Wilson, Atria’s national director of construction. Located in quintessential Cape Cod terrain just a short ferry ride away from Martha’s Vineyard, Atria management felt this was the place to showcase what’s possible in sustainable design for this highly specialized building type. “Cape Cod is a place where this kind of thinking is already mainstream,” Wilson says.

The gorgeous, timber-framed construction creates a warm, lodge-like feeling and features sustainably harvested lumber, low-VOC and nontoxic finishes and carpeting throughout, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and high-efficiency light fixtures. A network of paths lined with locally sourced crushed seashells meanders through the 15 acres of outdoor living spaces and gardens and down to Jones Pond, a popular picnic spot for residents and their families.

The quality of water flowing into nearby Nantucket Sound has always been very important to the Falmouth community, a value that the RUCK wastewater-treatment system, designed and installed by local engineering firm Holmes and McGrath, accommodates nicely. “The water leaving that system has between four and seven parts per million nitrogen and virtually no detectable biological oxygen demand or suspended solids,” says Mike McGrath, the firm’s founding principal, referring to the three benchmarks for effluent quality. The RUCK system uses multiple sand filters and a highly available organic carbon additive to treat the water to well beyond Massachusetts standards.

Woodbriar Place’s green features are a big selling point for residents, from the biodegradable cleaning supplies to the photovoltaic panels on the roof. In the lobby, residents keep tabs on the building’s energy production with a solar power dashboard displayed on a monitor and proudly note their progress in ‘tons of carbon sequestered’ and ‘gallons of gas saved.’

Residents also enjoy the benefits of the LG variable refrigerant flow (VRF) HVAC system, though the sustainably side of this system may not be as obvious. The VRF is equipped with a heat-recovery system so that when one resident wants to lower his or her room temperature, the heat is effectively captured and transferred to the room of another who may be feeling chilly. “We have to respect that seniors want as much autonomy as possible with ambient conditions,” Wilson says. Thanks to this HVAC system, residents can crank the heat or the air-conditioning as they desire without cranking up their carbon footprint. 


The LEED Gold Woodbriar Place feature a VRF HVAC system that optimizes comfort by efficiently reusing heat between individual units.


Traditional timber-framed architecture hides the property’s notable green features, which include an innovative wastewater-treatment system.