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Genzyme Center Gets Natural Air Flow

Credits: ©2010 Genzyme Center

Working with Genzyme, Behnisch and Partner Architekten of Germany began to design the Genzyme Center green building around an internal environment that emphasized natural light, views of the outdoors and an open “feel” with extensive shared space that would encourage collaboration. As the building took shape from the inside, the outside also came into focus; Genzyme Center would be sheathed entirely in glass, connecting the external and internal environments and making a statement about transparency. This connection with the external environment would be strengthened by a number of important employee-friendly features: operable windows, extensive indoor gardens, natural light enhancement systems and a cafeteria with sweeping views of the Charles River and the Boston cityscape. The result was among the first green buildings to be certified as LEED Platinum in 2004.


Genzyme Center Chandelier

Stationary mirrors on the roof of the Genzyme Center beam sunlight through the skylight, down into the twelve-story atrium and onto a chandelier made up of 768 prismatic tiles. In addition to the hanging tiles, the building has other reflectors inside the atrium, including what the company calls its "sunflowers," light fixtures made up of reflecting discs. ©2010 Martin LaMonica/CNET News.com

Genzyme Center’s unique design was not just about cutting-edge architecture. From the earliest stages, Genzyme and Behnisch agreed that the new building should also reflect Genzyme’s commitment to the environment and the community. Genzyme worked closely with Behnisch to ensure that Genzyme Center met or exceeded the highest environmental goals. The comprehensive approach included such features as rooftop gardens that reduce rainwater run-off, and a sophisticated system that uses waste steam from a nearby power plant to cool the building. Even the site of the building was selected in part for environmental reasons: Genzyme Center is built on the former site of a coal gasification plant, which had been abandoned after years of use, leaving a contaminated vacant lot in the heart of the Kendall Square community of Cambridge. Genzyme helped restore the site to productive use and implemented a monitoring system for air quality. Additionally, Genzyme Center is located just two blocks from public transportation, encouraging employees to commute to work using environmentally friendly methods.

Since it opened in late 2003, Genzyme Center has been viewed as a symbol of environmentally responsible construction. It has shown that it is possible to create a healthy and comfortable workplace for employees while still reducing its impact on the environment.

Genzyme Center’s energy costs are estimated to be 42 percent less than that of a comparable building. Genzyme Center also uses an estimated 34 percent less water than a comparable building. In total, over 75 percent of the materials used to construct the building contain recycled materials and more than 90 percent of all construction waste from the project was recycled.

In addition to its environmental benefits, Genzyme Center was designed with the employees in mind. The building provides an environment where people can work comfortably and productively and with greater focus and efficiency. Employees enjoy abundant natural light, windows that open and the ability to control workspace temperature and light levels. Most employees have direct views to the outdoors from their offices or workspaces. Eighteen gardens located throughout the building help bring the outdoors in.

To track the effect of the new building design on employees, Genzyme administered a survey 18 months after it opened. Comparing Genzyme Center to their prior workspace, employees responded to the survey as follows:

72 percent said they felt more alert and productive.

88 percent said having direct views and access to the interior gardens improved their sense of well being.

75 percent said the building’s clear glass design has increased their sense of connection with colleagues.

92 percent said the building has increased their sense of pride about Genzyme’s commitment to the


Genzyme Center combines sophisticated technology and innovative design including the following environmentally-friendly design elements:

Temperature and Air
Airflow Genzyme Center employs a sophisticated air monitoring system to ensure that the air quality in the building is optimal.

Vegetative Roof Plantings on the roof reduce storm water runoff and absorb heat. These arid succulent plants are hearty and require little water.

Loggia The building is enveloped in a double façade of glass, called the loggia, which covers over 32 percent of the building exterior. The loggia provides thermal benefits by providing a tempered space using solar heat radiation and ventilation flaps.

Operable Windows The exterior facade includes operable windows and several terraces. Operable windows allow for use of natural ventilation, therefore reducing the reliance on the building's heating and cooling system.

Prismatic Louvers The prismatic louvers deflect heat-generating direct sunlight, allowing only diffuse light through the skylight into the atrium.

Heliostats Heliostats are the large mirrors located on the roof. They follow the path of the sun throughout the day, reflecting sunlight onto a set of fixed mirrors which then direct light down into the atrium.

Skylights The skylight allows the sunlight to enter the atrium.

Reflecting Pool A water feature on the first floor enhances the natural environment, provides humidity during the dry winter months, and reflects natural light.

Light Wall The light wall is made of polished aluminum strips that help distribute daylight within the building.

Chandelier A central component in the light enhancement system, the chandelier consists of 768 animated prismatic plates that distribute light from the skylight into interior spaces throughout the building.

Reflective Ceiling Panels Reflective ceiling panels help direct light deeper into the building.

Perforated Blinds

Along the glass exterior, computer-controlled blinds automatically track the sun’s position and open to desired angles to let light in while deflecting heat. All of the blinds close automatically at night to prevent light pollution in the surrounding neighborhood.

Water Sensors Moisture sensors in the landscaping reduce unnecessary watering.

Vegetative Roof A green living roof absorbs heat and reduces storm water runoff.

Smart Plumbing Highly efficient plumbing including low-flow fixtures, waterless urinals and dual-flush toilets substantially reduces water use.

Renewable Resources
Heating and Cooling – Power Plant Steam from a nearby power plant is used to heat and cool the building.

Photovoltaic Panels To utilize renewable energy technology, The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative funded 1,650 square feet of Photovoltaic panels on the roof to generate power, helping reduce electricity usage.

Building Materials Materials used in the building such as carpets and paints meet or exceed the highest standards for the emission of volatile organic compounds, creating a healthier workplace for people. Seventy-five percent of all materials came from local sources within 500 miles. Most of the wood used in the project comes from renewable forests. More than 90 percent of all waste from the Genzyme Center construction site was recycled or reused.

Transportation The building is within walking distance to multiple modes of public transportation. To encourage alternative transportation, bicycle storage and shower facilities are available on the ground floor. Preferred spaces for vanpool and carpool vehicles and electric recharging stations for hybrid vehicles are located in an underground garage.

Energy Conservation Energy costs at Genzyme Center are significantly less than those of a conventional office building. This energy efficiency results from the building's concrete construction, solar panels, use of waste steam from a nearby plant for cooling and heating, extensive use of natural light and an insulating second layer of glass covering much of the exterior.

The Concrete Structure Design
Architects Behnisch & Partner designed Genzyme Center using a concrete frame

superstructure, a flat slab floor system, and a concrete core for lateral load resistance. The concrete structural system is a composite system using precast and cast-in-place elements. Traditional reinforced cast-in-place concrete of varying depths is tied to the precast elements by welded wire trusses that are partially embedded within both components. One of the strongest benefits of using concrete for the structure is its inherent thermal mass. At Genzyme Center, much of the concrete is exposed, providing a passive heating/ cooling benefit that helps reduce energy costs; the building is projected to consume 38 percent less energy than a comparable conventional structure. The building is part of the transformation of a “brownfield” site where in-situ cement-based solidifaction/stabilization (S/S) was used to remediate the contaminated soil.


  Genzyme Center Case Study by Architect Behnisch (519 kb)

  Genzyme Green Building Features (75 kb)

  Genzyme Electrical Fact Sheet (166 kb)

  Genzyme Center Case Study 2005 (476 kb)

  Genzyme Center Article Architecture Mag Aug 2006 (1,090 kb)

  Genzyme Center Fact Sheet (34 kb)


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