As Earth’s climate continues to change, it has become increasingly important for the built environment to anticipate and prepare for a ‘new normal.’ SGA designs for tomorrow by reducing a building’s impact on the environment–and–reducing the environment’s impact on a building.
SGA’s experience lowering embodied and operational carbon, maximizing on-site renewable energy production, and minimizing reliance on nonrenewable natural resources empowers owners to consistently deliver the most sustainable and resilient developments. These facilities continue to lead the market in a ‘flight-to-quality’ and are sought after by innovative companies looking for greater alignment between their real estate decisions and organizational missions.
Industry and public interest in climate-conscious design have consistently risen alongside the growing concern for Earth’s diminishing natural resources and changing weather patterns. In 2023 alone, SGA designed over three million square feet of Net Zero, or Net Zero Ready, development throughout the Northeast and is among the top three nationally-competitive firms with the most Net Zero square footage in Massachusetts, according to a report from Built Environment Plus. The pace of sustainable, resilient commercial architecture continues to accelerate by necessity.
Many of SGA’s recent commissions operate with an Energy Use Intensive (EUI) that is less than one-third of market-competitive projects. While laboratory buildings are known for their high construction costs and significant energy needs, SGA’s work at the edge of the grid continues to eliminate reliance on fossil fuels while preparing large-scale developments, and the communities they bolster, to thrive in a post-grid world.
SGA continues to drive the industry forward by delivering climate-conscious buildings for the nation’s top developers as evident in ongoing projects like:
- Innovation Square 3 (ISQ3): The Net Zero development totaling 320,000 square feet of research and development space designed with support from DREAM Collaborative for Related Beal and Vertex Pharmaceuticals.
- FORUM: A LEED Platinum, Net Zero development for Lendlease and Ivanhoé Cambridge with more than 325,000 square of life sciences space.
- The Arsenal on the Charles: The 1.2 million square foot Net Zero Ready campus in Watertown, Massachusetts.
To achieve these high-performance developments, SGA strives to deliver the most innovative sustainability solutions. Starting with thermal-bridge-minimizing envelope design to achieve airtight properties and the detailed analysis of a site’s solar orientation. This enables SGA to deploy an optimal window-to-wall ratio and shading strategy to minimize solar gain. Here, architects also focus on maintaining desirable daylighting, views, and aesthetic presence. By using low-embodied carbon materials that have been responsibly sourced, SGA ensures both sustainability and resiliency.
FORUM’s high-performance, triple-glazed curtain wall facade leverages minimized thermal bridging and strategically integrated shading strategies to reduce peak heating and cooling loads. This architectural defense against exposure to the sun and other atmospheric conditions drastically reduces EUI by nearly eliminating the energy draw from thermal comfort systems. This creates a lower threshold for buildings to operate on renewable energy sources and results in lower stress on municipal grids. On the precipice of regenerative design, these projects shorten the distance to a future where high-performance developments share a surplus of clean energy–generated on-site–with their local communities.
In collaboration with Thornton Tomasetti, the life cycle assessment for FORUM highlights a 42% reduction in energy use and a 45% reduction in carbon footprint compared to the stringent Massachusetts stretch code baseline. Regarding material use, FORUM offers a nearly 20% reduction in Global Warming Potential and is 50% less harmful to the depletion of the ozone layer. Additionally, the building’s steel comes from a mill that uses 93% post-consumer and 4% pre-consumer recycled content for production.
SGA’s expertise in electrification strategies allow buildings to operate on traditional renewable resources, such as wind and solar, while simultaneously employing sustainable innovations like heat and cooling recovery technologies, heat pumps, and geothermal energy. At ISQ3, exhaust source heat pumps enable the development to eliminate gas powered energy altogether.
Impacts from climate change in the form of rising sea levels and extreme rainfall are also addressed at ISQ3. Focused on reducing disruptions to Vertex’s operations and safeguarding the integrity of the science happening within, the ISQ3 consultant team employed parametric modeling to anticipate the site-specific impact of predicted sea level rise in Boston’s Seaport. This resulted in the design decision to raise the structure’s foundation five feet to meet the ambitious objectives of the 2070 guidelines for sea level rise. Additionally, ISQ3’s below grade parking structure is designed to withstand the hydrostatic pressure of rising groundwater, which is a common occurrence due to the proximity of Boston Harbor.
At FORUM, the risks of a changing water cycle are managed differently. Here, SGA included a water management system that is capable of capturing over 15,000 gallons of rainwater annually to be used for toilet flushing. Additionally, on-site reservoirs reduce a major storm’s impact on the building and its surrounding community by slowing the rate at which this overload of water is released into municipal systems. In doing so, SGA has delivered a resilient design prepared to navigate impending environmental challenges.
Boston consistently ranks among the most sustainable and most energy efficient cities in the United States, and was the first municipality to require adherence to LEED requirements in 2007. Since then, other major U.S. cities have continued to prioritize environmental sustainability in the wake of Boston’s ever-advancing progress; San Francisco mandates LEED; Portland focuses on reduced energy and eco-friendly materials; Seattle emphasizes energy efficiency; NYC created Local Law 97 to reduce the emissions produced by the city’s largest buildings; Los Angeles and Chicago prioritize energy efficiency and LEED Certification.