The new 58,000 sf District Energy Facility (DEF) is an opportunity to set the stage for a state-of-the-art, cost effective, and sustainable utility generation and distribution system for Harvard’s Allston campus that also makes a significant contribution to the urban design of the campus.
Its compact cubic form with rounded corners allows for maximum flexibility of future development around it while maintaining a singular bold and refined presence. A wrapper of metal fins forms a screen around the building, with petal-like elements set at varying degrees of openness to reveal or conceal the various equipment areas within. The fins are most open at the structure’s corner entry and the round thermal energy storage tank, and most closed on its service sides. On the public face of the building, the fins are raised above the ground to reveal the main equipment hall to passersby.
In addition to the many benefits of a district energy facility the construction of the new DEF will be an opportunity to contribute to the design of infrastructure in the urban and campus form. Formerly relegated to the “backyard” of a campus with little visibility, today’s infrastructure plants are more centrally located to serve multiple buildings in a district and face the pressures of relating in scale to nearby structures, and mitigating noise and air quality. An innovative approach is required to celebrate their energy and robust beauty and make them a good neighbor.
The new District Energy Facility will be the first new building to be completed on the Allston campus and as such, carries the responsibility of setting a high standard of quality and design, and of creating a visible demonstration of sustainable practice in building, landscape, and storm water management. Flexibility and innovation are key goals for the design which will provide chilled water, hot water, and electricity to the new campus. Resiliency will be a feature with equipment elevated above flood levels, black start cogeneration, and micro-grid integrations. A thermal energy storage tank supports efficient equipment use. The new District Energy Facility will be in place by mid 2019 to provide utilities to the new Science and Engineering Center before its completion.
The site for the District Energy Facility at a pivotal location in the development area south of Western Avenue makes the facility a highly visible presence from all sides. It is a permanent support facility and therefore its building and site design complements the future campus evolution, including open space, academic buildings, and research and development space.