Combined Heat And Power For Boston Universities: Enhancing Sustainability And Profit – Caption: An architect’s rendering shows a new mass-timber residential building soon to begin construction in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood.
Caption: A view from the street depicts the new five-story, 14-unit residential building, which will be one of the largest wood residential buildings in the US.
- 1 Combined Heat And Power For Boston Universities: Enhancing Sustainability And Profit
- 2 Mit Researchers Find A New Way To Store Renewable Energy
- 3 State May Deny Grants To Communities That Don’t Comply With New Mbta Housing Law
Combined Heat And Power For Boston Universities: Enhancing Sustainability And Profit
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A view from the street depicts the new five-story, 14-unit residential building, which will be one of the largest mass-frame residential buildings in the US.
A new building to take shape in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood hopes its designers will offer a new way of building residential structures in cities.
Designed by architects from MIT and design and construction firm PlaceTaylor, the five-story building’s structure will be constructed of cross-laminated timber (CLT), which eliminates the greenhouse-gas emissions associated with common building materials. It will be assembled on site from factory-built sub-units and will be energy-efficient so its total carbon emissions will be essentially zero.
Most efforts to estimate a building’s greenhouse gas contributions focus on the building’s operations, particularly its heating and cooling systems. But the materials used in a building’s construction, particularly steel and concrete, are major sources of carbon emissions and need to be factored into a realistic comparison of different types of construction.
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Wood construction is limited to single-family homes or small apartment buildings, minimizing the impact on urban areas. But recent developments – including the large-scale production of wood components known as mass timber; the use of techniques such as cross-laminated timber; U.S. And changes in building codes – now enabling the spread of timber to larger buildings up to 18 stories tall.
Recent buildings in Europe are pushing these limits, and now a few large wooden buildings are starting to take shape in the US as well. The new project in Boston will be one of the largest residential buildings of its kind in the US, as well as one of the most innovative, thanks to its construction methods.
Described as a Passive House demonstration project, the Boston building will contain 14 residential units of various sizes and a ground-floor co-working space for the community. The building was designed by Generate Architecture and Technologies, a start-up company from MIT and Harvard University, led by John Klein, in collaboration with Playtailor, a design, development and construction company specializing in net zero energy and carbon construction. -Neutral buildings in the Boston area for over a decade.
Klein, who is a principal investigator in MIT’s architecture department and now serves as CEO of Generate, says there are a number of large buildings built from mass timber and assembled using the kit-of-parts approach he and his colleagues are developing. Potential advantages over conventionally built structures of similar dimensions. For starters, even when factoring in the energy used to cut, transport, assemble and finish the structural timber pieces, the total carbon emissions produced are less than half that of a comparable building made of traditional steel or concrete. Klein, along with collaborators from engineering firm BureauHold Engineering and environmental market development firm Oliphant, will present a detailed analysis of these life cycle emissions comparisons later this year at the annual Passive and Low Energy Architecture (PLEA) conference in A Coruña, Spain. This year’s theme is “Planning Post-Carbon Cities”.
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For that study, Klein and his co-authors modeled nine different versions of a large eight-story wooden building, one steel and one concrete version of the building with the same overall scale and characteristics. Their analysis shows that steel-based building materials produce the most greenhouse emissions; The concrete version made 8 percent less than that; A version of the log building produced 53 percent less.
The first question people ask about the idea of building tall buildings out of wood is: What about fire? But Klein says the question has been thoroughly studied, and in fact, tests have shown that a mass-timber building retains its structural strength longer than a comparable steel-framed building. That’s because large timber elements, typically a foot thick or more, are made by gluing together several layers of conventionally sized timber. These will char on the outside when exposed to fire, but the charred layer actually provides good insulation and protects the wood for a long time. Steel buildings, in contrast, can collapse quickly when the temperature of a fire approaches the melting point of steel and softens it.
Developed by Generate and Playtailor, the kit-based approach, which the team calls Model-C, means that when designing a new building, a variety of structures can be created using a range of pre-configured modules assembled in various ways. Different uses of different sizes, such as assembling a toy structure from LEGO blocks. These subunits can be manufactured in factories in a standardized process, then trucked to site and bolted together. By keeping most of the construction process indoors in a controlled environment, the process can reduce the impact of climate while reducing construction time on site and thus reducing the impact of construction on the neighborhood.
The animation depicts the process of assembling a mass-timber building from a set of factory-made components. Courtesy of Generate Architecture and Technologies
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“It’s a way to rapidly deploy these types of projects through a standardized system,” says Klein. “It’s a way to build rapidly in cities with an aesthetic that embraces offsite industrial construction.”
Because solid wood structural elements are naturally very good insulators, the energy needed to heat and cool the Roxbury building is reduced compared to traditional construction, Klein says. They also produce very good sound insulation for its occupants. Additionally, solar panels are designed to be installed on the building’s roof, which will help offset the building’s energy consumption.
The team won a 2018 Wood Innovation Grant from the US Forest Service to develop a mass-timber-based system for midscale housing developments. The new Boston building will be the first demonstration project of the system they developed.
“It’s really a system, not a one-off prototype,” says Klein. With on-site assembly of factory-made modules, including fully assembled bathrooms with plumbing, the building’s basic structure can be completed on each floor in about a week, he says.
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“We are all aware of the urgent need to transition to a zero-carbon economy, and the construction sector is a prime target,” says Andres Bernal SM ’13, director of architecture at PlaceTaylor. “As a company that has been exclusively delivering zero-carbon buildings for over a decade, we are very excited to work with CLT/mass timber as an option to enhance our approach and share kit-of-parts and lessons. The rest of Boston society.
With U.S. building codes now allowing massive timber buildings up to 18 stories, Klein hopes the building will start a new boom in wood-based or hybrid construction, which he says will help provide a larger market. Sustainable forestry, as well as sustainable, net-zero energy housing.
“We see it as very competitive with concrete and steel for eight- to 12-story buildings,” he says. Such buildings, he adds, are likely to have great appeal, especially to the younger generation, because “sustainability is very important to them. It gives developers solutions with a real market differentiator.
He adds that Boston has set a goal of building thousands of new housing units and making the city carbon neutral. “Here’s a solution that does both,” he says.
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The project team includes Evan Smith and Colin Booth of PlayStation Development; In addition to Klein, Zlatan Sehovic, Chris Weaver, John Fechtel, Jaehun Wu, and Clarence Yi-Hian Lee at Generate Design; Andres Bernal, Michelangelo Latona, Travis Anderson, and Elizabeth Hauer at Playtailor Design; Laura Jolly and Evan Smith at Playtailor Construction; Paul Richardson and Wolf Mangelsdorf at Burohappold; Sonia Barrentes and Jacob Staub at Ripcord Engineering; and Brian Kuhn and Caitlin Gamache in Code Red.
Architects from MIT and Generate Technologies have designed Boston’s first cross-laminated timber (CLT) building, a “revolutionary” type of wood [that] promises to reduce climate-changing emissions, create affordable housing and spark new job-creation. Homegrown Industry in New England,” Bruce Gellerman and Kathleen McInerney report for WBUR.
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