Atlantic Wharf

File Type: Free Content, Case study
Release Date: November 2012
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Atlantic Wharf

*2012 Sustainable Development Award Winner*

Fast Facts

Address: Boston, Mass.
Company/Developer: Boston Properties
Project Specs: New Construction
Project Type: Mixed-use
Square Feet: 1.2 million

Project History: Boston Properties purchased the former Russia Wharf project in Spring of 2007. The project was designed and permitted by the previous owner, but Boston Properties took a fresh look at the entire development prior to beginning construction and made several changes which improved the aesthetics, uses and public access to the site. 

The overall design of the office tower was modified to reflect the nautical surroundings and structural changes were made to improve the floor plan layouts. The mix of uses at the site was revised and re-permitted to reflect the financial challenges of the 2008 economic downturn. The project contains two separate office components: 1. Tower: a 31-story glass tower leased to top financial services firms and 2. Waterfront Building: a 7-story building within the historic facades leased by top creative, architecture, and high tech firms.

With its location directly on Boston's Waterfront, the project is subject to a number of public accommodations in exchange for density, including annual programming plans, an on-site information center, and public spaces available for community use. These requirements ensure active use of the site and encourage neighborhood involvement, pedestrian traffic and contribute to the vibrancy of the area. During the first year of operations (2011), the project hosted more than 50 public events, including musical and dance performances, art exhibits, gala receptions, and public forums.

The residential portion of the project is contained within a renovated 1899 Peabody & Stearns designed building. The building was completely restored and is the recipient of federal tax credits.

Commitment to Sustainability

As one of the largest owners and developers of office properties in the United States, we continually seek ways to promote our growth and improve our performance by attracting and retaining tenants and controlling our costs. The efficient operation of our buildings in an environmentally responsible manner and positively impacting the communities in which we operate are important components of this strategy. Boston Properties reviews on an ongoing basis which measures are the most effective in supporting this strategy and where the greatest risk lies in not taking action. We focus our efforts on the areas we can control and make significant impacts. These include the design and construction of our new developments and the operation of our existing buildings.

While our sustainability management and investments reach across our portfolio, we have focused our reporting of aggregate performance on office buildings over which we have full control of the operational systems and information and which are at least fifty percent occupied. Office buildings comprise the vast majority of our portfolio and by concentrating on similarly situated buildings we are able to compare performance and judge the effectiveness of our sustainability measures in a more meaningful way. Over time we will continue to assess each property and expand our reporting program, as appropriate.

Our sustainability efforts are centered on energy efficiency, waste reduction, water conservation and maintaining a quality environment for our tenants through our green cleaning program. As a company with a core strategy of long-term ownership, we use high quality building materials and design to reduce replacement costs and repairs and to ensure our buildings remain competitive for the long term. We invest in energy systems which reduce the cost of operations for ourselves and our tenants. A core element of our development strategy is a commitment to the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED® certification program.

We have committed to using the ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager system to measure the results of our efforts to increase energy efficiency and water conservation. Our Regional Managers and Regional Heads of Property Management are accountable in their annual quantifiable performance goals for the success of their efforts to measure and improve our efficiency as measured on this system. In 2011, nationally 45 buildings totaling 15.2 million square feet are Energy Star labeled, and in Boston, 13 buildings totaling 3.2 million square feet are Energy Star labeled.

Green Features

Economic Analysis

Delivered in January 2011 (office, retail, public spaces and parking) and July 2011 (residential), the project has established itself as the premier mixed-use project. Atlantic Wharf is 100 percent leased today, outperforming the markets for each use. Below is a summary of the project’s components and their economic performance:

  • Office - Tower Office (Floors 9-31, 553,000 sf) is 100 percent leased to leading financial services and management consultants. Waterfront Office (Floors 2-7, 223,00 sf) is 100 percent leased. Given that the overall availability rate in the market is approximately 20 percent, Atlantic Wharf has far outperformed the market in terms of occupancy. In addition, rents for the office space exceed the average Class A rents in the Financial District which are approximately $46/rentable square foot.
  • Retail - Atlantic Wharf boasts five restaurants which provide both high quality service and diverse offerings that serve both destination restaurant diners as well as the office worker population. All four of the open restaurants report higher than forecasted sales. The successful retail has brought a buzz to the ground floor level of the project and has activated the site well after the offices shut down.
  • Residential - The Lofts at Atlantic Wharf is an 87-unit, 7-story renovation of the Russia Building. As of July 1, 2012, the Lofts were 100 percent leased. Rents for the residential component average $4.24 per sf, some of the highest residential rents in the city, and well above the pro-forma.
  • Public Spaces - Atlantic Wharf contains several public spaces that serve to drive access to and activation of the project, leading to increased economic activity for the rest of the project components.
  • Sustainability - The sustainable features have contributed greatly to Atlantic Wharf’s success, from speeding the lease up to reducing operating expenses now that the building is completed. A competitive property located across the Fort Point Channel and delivered several months prior to Atlantic Wharf continues to struggle with lease up. All of the customers that chose to locate their businesses at Atlantic Wharf strongly preferred to locate in a property that matched their desire for a sustainable workplace. Operating expenses at the property are well below market average, due to the many sustainable innovations detailed in the sections below.
outdoor courtyard at Atlantic Wharf

Site Sustainability/Materials Use

  • The design of Atlantic Wharf features the restoration, re-use and integration of 41.8 percent of the existing historic structures that were onsite. Of the three existing buildings on site, the Russia Building  was fully restored and the Graphic Arts and Tufts Building facades were preserved and integrated into the new architecture and structure. The re-use of the existing structures conserved valuable resources and significantly reduced the environmental impact of comparable new building construction as it relates to materials manufacturing and transportation.
  • In total, almost 17,500 tons of waste was diverted from landfills, a 96.4 percent diversion rate. 100 percent of the metal waste (structural steel) removed from the site was recycled or re-used.
  • Of the concrete, brick and block waste generated from the demolition and construction, 100 percent of that which was not re-used on site was recycled.
  • 38.58 percent of the building materials used at Atlantic Wharf were manufactured from recycled products, primarily steel and aluminum, which reduces the impacts from extraction and processing of native materials. In addition to the metal products, many base building materials were selected to include recycled content. 56.4 percent of the wood product in the building was harvested from FSC certified forests.
  • Of the new materials used in the project, an insulated glass curtain wall was utilized on the office tower to maximize natural day lighting while also contributing to a thermally efficient envelope.
  • The roof of the Graphic Arts & Tufts Buildings is covered with an 18,000-square-foot green roof. The roof utilizes native and adapted plantings to reduce the heat island effect, minimize the impact on the micro climate and reduce storm water run-off. The roof system is composed of modular pre-planted grids that sit directly on the roof membrane. This allows for the benefits of the green roof, while still allowing easy access for repairs and maintenance.
  • While the zoning requirements for the property do not call for open space, the property includes vegetated open space equal to 34.2 percent of the property’s site area. The large public plaza provides both landscaped and hardscaped areas for public enjoyment. The native and adapted plantings utilized, as well as the water retention system, result in a 100 percent reduction of potable water used for irrigation and a 63.1 percent reduction in total water usage using collected rainwater.

Energy Efficiency

  • Atlantic Wharf is designed to use 42 percent less energy than comparable New England office buildings. Energy efficiency measures include an improved thermal envelope, high efficiency glazing, a high efficiency boiler, and garage ventilation controls. The core and shell portion of the project controls approximately 67 percent of annual energy use, while the tenant design and operations influence the remaining 33 percent.
  • To measure and verify the energy savings, tenant sub-metering was implemented. The major core systems and public spaces are metered, and infrastructure was installed for tenants to monitor their spaces. Boston Properties developed tenant sub-metering guidelines and has included a centrally monitored electronic metering network in the base building design. This metering network includes monitoring of base building electric, gas, and water use, and is capable of being expanded to accommodate future tenants submetering. All metering information is collected centrally at the Building Management System.
  • The new construction portion of the project includes a 31-story glass-clad office tower. The glass on the tower contributed to Atlantic Wharf’s achieving a 42 percent increase in glazing thermal properties that contributed to reducing the building heating and cooling load. While ASHRAE 90.1 (2004) requires glazing with a .057 U-value, Atlantic Wharf’s glazing has a .033 U-value.
  • Atlantic Wharf achieved a 32 percent increase in roof thermal properties that contribute to reducing the building heating and cooling load. While ASHRAE 90.1 (2004) requires a .063 U-value, Atlantic Wharf’s roof has a .043 U-value.
  • The overall energy performance of the property demonstrates approximately 16 percent energy cost reduction compared to ASHRAE 90.1 (2004). Estimated savings of 30,000,000 MBTU/year (DMA 4/2009) and estimated 43 percent reduction in CO2 equivalent emissions than a comparable Boston building.
interior of Atlantic Wharf

Water Efficiency

  • Atlantic Wharf uses both traditional low-flow fixtures and an inventive harvesting system to impact water use. Atlantic Wharf features an innovative rainwater harvesting and reuse system that greatly contributes to the water efficiency of the property. Stormwater runoff from the roof of the building is harvested in a 40,000 gallon basement level retention tank and re-used throughout the property. The harvested water is used in HVAC process water and green roof watering, thereby reducing demand on municipal water systems and preventing stormwater discharges into Boston Harbor. By capturing and reusing this water, Atlantic Wharf reduces the amount of process water used by 15 percent in comparison to a comparable building.
  • The green roof provides another area for stormwater capture, cleaning and reuse, as the plantings were selected to require little to no irrigation and the stormwater falling on the site will infiltrate the green roof, removing 100 percent of the total suspended solids contained in it.
  • Plumbing fixtures throughout the property are low-flow fixtures, including showerheads and kitchen and lavatory sinks, and dual-flush water closets and efficient urinals are used in the core and shell design. The office space is currently 100 percent and all tenants are required to have similar fixtures in their spaces. These fixtures result in a 31.77 percent reduction in potable water usage from a calculated baseline.
  • The combination of low-flow fixtures, stormwater reuse, and reduced irrigation water use result in a 69 percent reduction in domestic water use as compared to a typical downtown tower. While a typical downtown tower uses 18 gallons/sf/year, Atlantic Wharf uses just 5.5 gallons/sf/year.


  • Atlantic Wharf is located less than 0.5 mile from South Station, New England’s second largest transportation hub. South Station offers bus, subway, commuter rail and Amtrak train access for commuters and travelers. This close proximity to a major transit station reduces pollution and land development impacts from automobile use. The property is also less than 0.5 miles from two other public transportation stations, providing easy access to all lines in the MBTA subway system.
  • For pedestrians, the property contains an onsite connection to Boston’s HarborWalk, a public walkway along the waterfront with parks, public art, seating areas, cafes, exhibit areas, interpretive signage, water transportation facilities and a range of other amenities. The HarborWalk provides one border to the property, while sidewalks and a public promenade between the property and the neighboring InterContinental Hotel provide the others. Restaurants at the property provide outdoor seating and add vibrancy to the pedestrian walkways. In addition, there is a large public plaza that includes a trellised seating area and a large grassy lawn with native plantings and built in seating for the public’s access and enjoyment.
  • The property also includes a nine-slip boat dock, providing access to water taxi transportation, as well as several options for touch-and-go docking, boat tours of the surrounding areas, and pleasure boat docks. The docks provide an alternative to automobile travel and utilize the property’s waterfront location.
  • Atlantic Wharf features a 650-car parking garage on six levels below-grade. This provides 100 percent of the property’s parking underground, thereby significantly reducing the heat island and drainage effects caused by on grade impervious hardscape surfaces. In addition, Atlantic Wharf provides 33 designated spaces for low-emitting and fuel efficient vehicles and access to two Zipcar ride sharing vehicles. Their location provides preferred access to both types of vehicles, as it is located directly upon entering the garage.

Site Development

  • Atlantic Wharf incorporates both a historic structure and a new building component, successfully developing a brownfield site and reincorporating it into the modern urban landscape. The property links the Financial District to the Waterfront by maintaining the scale of the historic facades, while also introducing the modern element of the glass tower setback from the street. Constructing and renovating a building on a previously developed site in a dense community channels development to urban areas with existing infrastructure and preserves natural resources.
  • While the zoning requirements for the property do not call for open space, the property includes vegetated open space equal to 34.2 percent of the property’s site area. The large public plaza provides both landscaped and hardscaped areas and is programmed throughout the year with performances and art to provide a year-round focal point on the HarborWalk. The native and adapted plantings utilized, as well as the water retention system, result in a 100 percent reduction of potable water used for irrigation and a 63.1 percent reduction in total water usage using collected rainwater.
  • The property includes 16,000 square feet of interior spaces available to and promoted to the public for community enjoyment. These spaces include: a  Waterfront Square utilized for events, performances, and community gatherings; an architecture museum; a multi-media room suitable for public meetings, presentations and events; and an art gallery currently programmed by the Fort Point Arts Community. These public spaces promote and contribute to the vibrancy of the area, and are intended to draw visitors, residents, and office workers to the property and the adjacent waterfront.


  • Throughout the design process, sustainable strategies were utilized whenever possible. Beginning with the process for reusing and restoring the historic facade and continuing through to building operations and LEED Platinum certification, Atlantic Wharf incorporates creative solutions specific to the site. The property is a brownfield redevelopment in an urban infill location, with unparalleled access to transportation. Local zoning called for the rehabilitation of the facades and historic tax credits were received for the complete restoration of an historic building integrated into the property. Being the ultimate combination of historic and sustainable, Atlantic Wharf lays to rest the argument that properties cannot be both, providing a shining example to cities with a large stock of historic properties.
  • The property includes a rain harvesting system that captures stormwater and reuses it for both HVAC and irrigation. The construction waste management plan successfully diverted more than 95 percent of waste generated from the project from landfills and the materials utilized in the construction included more than 30 percent recycled content.
  • To reduce the non-roof heat island effect, 100 percent of the property’s parking was constructed below grade and to reduce the roof heat island effect, a green roof was created on a majority of the low-rise building roof. The green roof had an additional, somewhat unexpected, benefit. The neighboring hotel’s restaurant, Miel at the InterContinental Boston, keeps bees on the roof to provide honey used on the menu. Upon the installation of the green roof on Atlantic Wharf, the bees have been producing record amounts of honey. The green roof has contributed to creating an urban habitat for the bees, directly impacting their honey production and aiding in the success of urban bee programs.
  • Creating a multi-tenant mixed-use LEED Platinum project requires that sustainable design be included in all aspect of the project. From the outdoor space to the column-free office layouts ensuring daylighting throughout the interior office spaces, Atlantic Wharf incorporates a thoughtfulness in design that looks beyond the requirements. The public spaces and mix of uses go above and beyond the requirements, and create a destination that is walkable and contributes to the vitality and vibrancy of the Boston Waterfront.