AwardsA'N Best of Design Awards - Winner, Infrastructure, 2021
Metropolis Planet Positive Awards, Civc Cultural Finalist, 2021
DNA Paris Awards - Honorable Mention 2018
The new 56,000 sf District Energy Facility (DEF) sets 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 its urban design.
The building’s 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 facility, with petal-like elements set at varying degrees of openness to reveal or conceal the various equipment areas within. The exterior 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 contributes 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 therefore face the pressures of relating in scale to nearby structures as well as mitigating noise and air quality. An innovative approach is required to celebrate their energy and robust beauty and to make them a good neighbor.
The DEF was the first new building to be completed on the Allston campus, therefore carrying the responsibility of setting a high standard of quality and design as well as of creating a visible demonstration of sustainable practice in building, landscape, and storm water management. Flexibility and innovation were key goals for the design of the project, which provides chilled water, hot water, and electricity to the new campus. Resiliency is a key feature, with equipment elevated above flood levels, black-start cogeneration, and micro-grid integrations. A thermal energy storage tank supports efficient equipment use. The DEF began providing utilities to the new Science and Engineering Center in 2019, before its completion.
The DEF’s site, at a pivotal location in the development area south of Western Avenue, makes the facility a highly visible presence from all sides. As a permanent support facility, its building and site design complements future campus evolution, including open space, academic buildings, and research and development spaces.