In spite of the many long-term payoffs, the initial financial investment in building green can be a prohibitive factor in many cases. Sure, Ford Motors can hire green-building superhero, William McDonough, to transform its factories, but how many local non-for-profits do you know occupying a LEED certified building? Breaking that trend, Artists for Humanity, a Boston-based youth arts organization located in the burgeoning Fort Point Channel Arts District, has proved that it’s possible for the little guys to build green, too.
The organization, which operates a range of micro-enterprise programs employing inner-city teen artists in paid apprenticeship and entrepreneurial opportunities, is the proud occupant of the first Platinum Level LEED certified building in Boston. The structure, designed by Arrowstreet Architects, also sports the City’s largest photovoltaic array on its roof. A beacon for progressive building practices in the Commonwealth, AFH has aptly named their new home the EpiCenter.
Funded in part by grant support from Boston’s Green Building Task Force and the forward-thinking Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, the 23,500 square foot facility boasts many of the usual cost-efficient and sustainable design features. It has passive solar heating, aggressive insulation, and a greywater recycling system, in addition to some creative materials re-use. Lending an industrial flavor to the building, recycled materials, such as railroad rails and car windshields, are featured in the gallery mezzanine’s railing. The bathroom furnishings, designed by a local artist, utilize materials leftover from the building’s own construction. And, in fact, more than 80 percent of the construction debris was collected and recycled, keeping it out of landfills.
Artists for Humanity was founded on a small business model and its approach to creating the EpiCenter reflects that industrious sensibility. In addition to housing AFH’s offices, and professionally equipped studios, the building features a spacious multi-level gallery. Offered as an assembly space to rent for private and corporate events, the gallery area provides both public exposure and sales opportunities to AFH’s student artists, while the rental incomes support the organization’s programs. Moreover, with their rooftop solar array designed to produce in excess of 150% of needed power, they’re also able to generate funds by selling energy back to the utility company.
Though the boxy modern aesthetic of the EpiCenter is perhaps not as groundbreaking as the creative work its occupant is undertaking, it’s refreshing to see sustainable building practices becoming increasingly more accessible.