Gallery: GREEN BUILDING: Genzyme Center LEEDS the Way

Genzyme_1, Sustainble Building, LEED Platinum
Genzyme_1, Sustainble Building, LEED Platinum

The LEED Platinum rated Genzyme Center, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, plays host to over 900 of the biotech company’s employees and more than 400 weekly visitors. While it is easy to go on about the building’s high performance curtainwall glazing system, the 32% water consumption offset, or extensive indoor gardens, one of the most impressive aspects of the Genzyme Center is its 12-story central atrium. The grand open-air atrium serves as both large return air duct and light shaft, allowing more than 75% of the employee workforce to work using natural light and yielding a 42% savings in electricity costs.

Designed by Behnisch, Behnisch, and Partners out of Venice, California, Genzyme Center’s natural light enhancement system brings natural light in through a series of roof-mounted heliostats (also known as mirrors) that are completely automated and track the movement of the sun across the sky. The fixed mirrors in turn reflect light to multiple prismatic louvers at the top of the atrium; what results is a diffusion of natural light (rather than a harsh beam) that fills the twelve-story atrium. Inside the atrium, light is reflected all the way to ground level with multiple hanging prismatic mobiles, reflective panels, and a reflective light wall. Behind the simple science of light reflection is the computer brain of this complete automated system, allowing all employees and visitors inside to enjoy daylight while indoors without having to think about it.

+ Behnisch, Behnisch, and Partners


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  1. Amanda April 24, 2007 at 10:22 am

    I actually visited this building…its absolutely spectacular. The employees of the company are very happy with the ability to communicate over the large atrium space. I can’t wait to see more buildings like this go up!

  2. James February 9, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    Info for All,

    If you are interested in the natural lighting systems here, check out Bartenbach Lichtlabor out of Austria ( , they designed this system and they do allot of work with Behnisch. The ‘mobile’ was designed by the office. Behnisch Behnisch and Parter is actually Behnisch Architekten now as of January last year. Buro Happold did the environmental systems for the project, the most interesting of which i find to be the use of otherwise wasted stream from an adjacent power plant to heat the building and power the chillers in the summer. If you want to see more in this vein, Behnisch is doing a Lab project for Harvard, also shooting for LEED Gold. It will be pretty cool, green, and good for Boston and the green movement in the States.

  3. Jac February 8, 2007 at 3:42 am

    Wow, this sure is very green, saving 42% of electricity! The entire mirror structure is also like a modern sculpture. From the pictures, it looks like papers flying but in freeze-frame. Wish i was there to see it for myself.

  4. PaulS. February 7, 2007 at 2:40 am

    Oooo, sparkly!

    Closer to where I am, Big D Construction, a prominent construction company in the western U.S., received a gold LEED rating for their renovation of an old multi story commercial building to be their own headquarters in Salt Lake City. They too have a central lighting atrium, though it’s not as hi tech as the Genzyme Center.

  5. andrewkfromaz February 6, 2007 at 7:56 pm

    Very attractive and interesting design. It would be interesting to see the urban design of the project, the design of the entrances &c.
    Very neat profile, thanks Inhabitat

  6. RCS February 6, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    Sounds great, and looks good, but as a neighbor who walks by the building twice daily on the way to and from home, I notice the heliostats are more like terrastats. They haven’t moved an inch in the last year.

  7. Mikael February 6, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    Do anyone know the name of the artist that did the multi-story mobile? Or is that part of the “daylight reflection” system?

  8. loot February 6, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    Congrats inhabitat. One of the first commercial buildings I could get enthused about. I’ve been studying how to channel natural sunlight inside a building, and this one looks like they’ve succeeded admirably.

  9. Alexanedr Burtsev February 6, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    Nice idea with mirrors on the 5th picture. By the way, does anybody know where it si possible to buy systems like this?
    I mean mirrors with bindings – personally I have a problem with day-lightning in my room, but there is a wall near window, well-illuminated in morning hours.

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