Zero Net Energy Building

John W. Olver Transit Center

Greenfield, MA  USA

Commissioned by: Federal Transit Administration

Scope: Hub for bus and other transit services; government offices occupy top floor; future train depot. First zero-net-energy transit center in the United States; funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA); 24,000 SF. With a 7,300 SF photovoltaic array; 22 geothermal wells; on-site wood-pellet boiler.

The John W. Olver Transit Center is designed to generate through renewable sources all the energy that it uses, meaning its net-energy consumption over the course of a year will be zero. At its core, the building contains a number of seemingly contradictory impulses. Charles Rose Architects was mindful of citizens’ desires for a building that linked to Greenfield’s history and was a highly innovative carbon-neutral building, which our ARRA stimulus funding allowed us to do. The materials we chose for the exterior—brick, copper and locally sourced stone—are a respectful nod to the downtown business district and its stately dark-brick buildings. Yet the transit center represents a radical departure from those energy-guzzling structures, anticipating the future and President Obama’s executive order requiring that all new federal buildings achieve net-zero by 2030. The dark brick cladding the western side may pay homage to Greenfield’s past, but its main purpose is green: a high-tech strategy in managing the building’s exposure to afternoon sun. In parts, the brick dissolves and the façade becomes a kind of screen; these patterns are computer-generated and control the amount of heat entering the building’s interior in summer and winter. And while brick and stone imbue the center with a rooted-in-place quality, the building’s form conveys a sense of fluidity—a visual cue of the building’s purpose. Our design bends the building toward the northern end, which gives the center a sense of motion or perhaps a current running through the structure. If successful, it will generate currents of change: local officials are looking to the transit center to spark downtown revitalization and sustainable development.

Materials: Copper; brick; bluestone; concrete; walnut; bronze; stainless steel; steel; acoustical plaster; terrazzo.

Completed: 2012

Cost: $10,900,000

Client:  MassDOT; Massachusetts Recovery and Reinvestment Office; MBTA, Design and Construction Directorate
Owner’s Representative:  McMahon
Structural Engineer:  RSE Associates Inc.
MEP, FP Engineer:  ARUP
Civil Engineer:  Nitsch Engineering
Geotechnical Engineer:  McPhail Associates, Inc.
Landscape Architect:  GroundView, LLC
Building Envelope Consultant:  Building Envelope Technologies, Inc.
Lighting Consultant:  Reflex Lighting Group, Inc.
Specification Writer:  Kalin Associates
Code Consultant:  R.W. Sullivan Engineering

Photographer: Peter Vanderwarker