Both the old Boston Globe headquarters and the former McGregor Socks factory in downtown Toronto shared the spotlight at the recent Buildings Weeks conference.
In a seminar titled Reimaging Obsolete Buildings as New, Green and Healthy Workplaces, two Stantec sustainability consultants delivered respective overviews of how the former newspaper office and sock factory were given new lives as modern commercial and sustainable buildings.
Their objective was to demonstrate how older buildings can be made healthy and green, while being preserved and adapted for new uses.
“The greenest building is the one that already exists,” said Stantec Architecture’s U.S. northeast sustainability design leader Blake Jackson.
Older buildings are a “one-of-a-kind opportunity,” said Jackson in detailing how one such opportunity is progressing in Boston.
His topic was the adaptive reuse of the former Boston Globe building at 135 Morrissey Ave. It had been the newspaper’s headquarters from 1958, when it relocated there from an original downtown site, until its closure in 2016.
Scheduled to open at the end of the first quarter of next year, the sprawling complex is being made over into the “The BEAT” (The Boston Exchange for Accelerated Technology), a mixed commercial, retail, recreational facility by the development firm Nordblom.
Being carried out by Massachusetts-based construction manager John Moriarty & Associates, the project included taking the building back to core and shell. Construction started in the first part of 2019, with some prior preconstruction work conducted in late 2018.
Some of the key drivers in the developer’s 2017 purchase of the site included proximity to major transportation and public transit and adjacent historic neighbourhoods, plus the sprawling structure’s large, continuous and flexible floor space.
At the same time “we had to humanize that space,” said Jackson on the need to moderate its industrial character.
Measures undertaken to achieve that objective have included the creation of a shrub-lined courtyard at the front entrance, the reconfiguration of the main floor into a range of uses including food courts, a brewery and fitness centre, with offices and laboratories on the subsequent floors.
Just some of the sustainability features include LED lighting, low-flow fixtures, an almost 37 per cent indoor potable water use reduction and the absence of a cooling tower.
“We’re pursuing LEED Core and Shell v4 Gold certification,” said Jackson, explaining that approximately 75 per cent of the building’s original core and shell was retained.
Citing a dedicated emergency plan and amenities such as a dedicated exercise facility, another objective is to attain Fitwel C-S certification. Fitwel recognizes design, development and building operation excellence.
If enough points can be achieved, and Jackson indicated that will occur, the BEAT will be the first core and shell development in Boston obtaining certification in both programs.
“We had to do a lot of upfront education (on Fitwel) with the developer.”
That comment arose during a conversation near the end of the seminar with the second speaker, Toronto based Stantec associate Paulina Czajkowski.
As an example of a local fit-up, she spoke about the very building she works in. Located at the intersection of Wellington and Spadina streets in the heart of the city’s district, the revitalized and reconfigured McGregor Socks factory was transformed into 401 Wellington Street about a decade ago.
Constructed in 1905 with a three-storey partial addition erected in the 1930s, the masonry structure was converted and modernized by Stantec and received Gold certification under LEED for Commercial Interiors Rating system in 2011.
In the reconversion project some key green features were installed such as high-efficient plumbing fixtures, lighting and HVAC systems including underfloor air distribution. All this was achieved without diluting the original appearance and texture of the building, which features prominent characteristics include high ceilings and exposed brick and wood beams.
And the building’s open concept layout allows sightlines to large perimeter windows and quality views including one of Clarence Square, a local park, said Czajkowski.
“You can look out at the square and know there is a world out there.”