The George Robert White Environmental Conservation Center (GRWECC), located at Mass Audubon's Boston Nature Center in Mattapan, was developed as a partnership between Mass Audubon and the City of Boston through the George Robert White Fund. It is the first municipal green building in Boston. Heralded by Boston's Mayor Thomas M. Menino as the "building that teaches," the GRWECC is intended to serve as a regional model for environmentally responsible building principles.
The GRWECC is designed, constructed, and maintained in a manner that protects and conserves the natural environment. It also provides employees and visitors with a comfortable, healthy environment in which to work and learn. The building employs a number of strategies to minimize its environmental impacts:
Renewable energy technologies, including
geothermal heat pumps
solar hot water system
Tight building "envelope"
Environmentally-sound materials such as
wood from certified sustainably-harvested forests
products with recycled content
locally-sourced materials, including Roxbury Puddingstone
See a segment about Boston Nature Center's green technology that is airing on Your World: Bringing it Home, a series that is shown on the The Needham Channel. Part of "The Bright Future of Solar", it will run from March to May.
An educational kiosk at the Center allows visitors to learn more about the photovoltaic system.
The BNC is located on 67 acres that were formerly part of the Boston State Hospital. The once-neglected property has been restored to its natural state and transformed into a wildlife sanctuary. Two and a half miles of wheelchair accessible trails and boardwalks traverse meadows and wetlands where visitors can see native plants and wildlife including coyotes, pheasants, and many species of migratory birds.
The site is also home to the Clark Cooper Community Gardens, one of Boston's oldest and largest community gardens which provides food and a green oasis for 250 local families.
SERVING THE COMMUNITY
In addition to serving as a regional model for green design, the GRWECC strives to meet the needs of the local community. The Center is situated in one of the highest density residential neighborhoods in the City of Boston, with more than 230,000 residents and over 40 schools located within two miles.
A number of elements contribute to the environmental sustainability of the site. Located within a half mile of two bus routes and within two miles of a commuter rail and subway station, the building can be easily accessed by public transit. Showers are available in an adjacent building and a bicycle rack is also available on-site making the building bicycle-friendly.
A "Light Shelf" bounces natural light from clerestory windows in the office area to amplify the light penetration.
The building's location and orientation on the site were chosen to maximize the availability of natural daylight and, thus, limit the building's need for artificial lighting and winter heating. The building's orientation on the site also facilitates the use of solar technologies to harness the sun's energy for water heating and electricity generation.
An erosion and sedimentation plan was in place during construction to minimize the effects on the local watershed. The building is sited such that it avoids interference with the natural flow of surface water, thus minimizing runoff. The surface water runoff that does occur is routed through a system of retention ponds, or constructed wetlands, which improve water quality and minimize erosion during major rain events. In addition, the driveway and parking area are unpaved in an effort to limit runoff and avoid the "heat-island" effect. Finally, the site is landscaped with native and climate-tolerant plants to reduce the need for watering and special landscape maintenance.