Artists for Humanity’s expansion in Boston’s Innovation District is a pioneering and iconic low-energy facility. The flagship building will support AFH’s non-profit programs for under-resourced youth that promote self-sufficiency through paid employment in art or design. The project is the next step in AFH’s history of leading the Boston area in building performance – the existing EpiCenter became the first LEED Platinum LEED structure in Boston in 2005. The expanded three-story facility adds 28,000 sf for ongoing and future programming to the existing 24,000 sf building for a total of 52,000 sf. It accommodates more youth artists, expanded galleries, and new studios. The passive, low-energy building concept is an integral part of AFH’s overall social educational mission.
As part of the natural ventilation strategy for the building, all glazing has operable windows. An existing natural ventilation shaft, with two fans located at the top, is reused, pulling air through the spaces. Indicator lights inform occupants when they should open windows. The underside of the corrugated structural deck is exposed to allow for natural night flush to cool the thermal mass of the building. Natural ventilation is intended to be sufficient to maintain comfort for 50% of the year.
Building energy demand was minimized through thoughtful programming and the definition of an expanded thermal comfort range, such that a future roof-mounted solar array has the possibility of dramatically lowering the building’s demand for non-renewable energy. The innovative expansion is designed to have the potential to become the first Energy Positive commercial building in New England once the PV is mounted and the use of the building is adjusted accordingly.
The straightforward building facade concentrates generous glazed openings at key areas in the floorplan in order to bring daylight in the gallery/event pre-function spaces and illuminate activities and art within from the street. These “shop windows” are expanded visually through the use of charcoal-colored metal panel surrounds, set into a field of stainless steel corrugated cladding that references the facade of the original EpiCenter as well as the industrial character of the historic South Boston waterfront.