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.

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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. + GENZYME CENTER + Behnisch, Behnisch, and Partners