175–185 Wyman Street – Renovation at Its Best

Spring 2011
Exterior cladding using the rainscreen principle serves as a screen against water intrusion while providing airspace behind the skin for ventilation and drainage.

Development isn’t on hiatus everywhere. Some areas have weathered the Great Recession better than others. In the suburbs of Waltham, Massachusetts, a two-building, Class A office complex at175-185 Wyman Street was a recent addition to the office and technology-based area.

With a long and complex ownership history, environmental considerations, strict zoning requirements and an active community and local government, the design team had many obstacles to overcome to build a state-of-the-art office complex. The outcome of the project, which earned LEED® Gold certification and Innovation in Design Credits in all five categories, is better than the owner/developer, Hobbs Brook Management, could have hoped -- industry recognition and a single tenant who inked a long-term lease for all 335,000 square feet in 2010. 

NIMBY at Its Best

The 175-185 Wyman Street project lies on the site of a former com­puter manufacturing building that consisted of 65,000 tons of con­crete, brick and stone. The block building had been vacant for nearly 20 years, during which time several developers purchased and sold it due to an inability to successfully gain special permits and variances. Through true strength of commu­nity, the neighbors’ voices were heard. They did not want oversized buildings obstructing their skyline.

In collaboration with Hobbs Brook Management, Boston-based Mar­gulies Perruzzi Architects crafted a low-lying, two-building complex that fit within current and approved zoning ordinances, thereby elimi­nating the need to seek additional permits. The design intent was to create efficient buildings that offer tenants real value. This included maximizing employees per rent­able square foot with the least amount of waste while providing the best views of the landscape -- the Cambridge Reservoir and the hills of nearby Weston. With this motivation, the buildings were care­fully designed to work within the contours of the site.  

Build It and They Will Come 

aerial view of 175-185 Wyman Street

The two L-shaped buildings share a drainage system that cleans stormwater. Catch basins and sumps trap large granular sediments while outlet hoods filter floatable petroleum pollutants.

Hobbs Brook’s corporate mission is to build or renovate using the most efficient and highest-quality materials available, with a build­ing life expectancy of at least 50 years. Adhering to this engineering standard, achieving LEED Gold was fairly painless, given the intrinsic goals and sustainable interests of the company.

With the recent economy, market predictions suggested that a green building would ultimately be more marketable, which played to Hobbs Brook’s advantage. In September 2010, Dassault Systems Ameri­cas, a leader in 3D and Product Lifecycle Management Solutions, leased all 335,000 square feet in an effort to consolidate its North­east U.S. operations. The inter­national company is scheduled to occupy all of 175 Wyman Street, totaling 211,741 square feet, by mid-2011 and will expand into 185 Wyman Street at a later date. Das­sault’s current real estate portfolio consists of approximately 40 loca­tions throughout North and South America, and this new corporate campus will initially accommodate 800 employees.

Hobbs Brook Management is 100 percent owned and does not have mortgages on any of its 22 proper­ties. Buying with cash enabled the firm to proceed with the project as envisioned without entanglements with banks over market conditions or the lack of a pending tenant. Built on spec, the buildings were vacant for only six months as lease negotiations progressed. In today’s market, it’s not unusual for a build­ing to have significant vacancy, and although confident from the start with the investment, securing a tenant this quickly was a major triumph for the firm.  

It’s All About the Water 

Lobby of 175-185 Wyman Street

This two-story main lobby features different tones and finishes of cherry wood and is intended to make natural light from the sky window seamlessly blend into the artificial lighting.

The project posed very challenging site constraints for the designers. Approximately one-half of the prop­erty is located within the watershed of the Cambridge Reservoir, a pub­lic drinking water supply. The other half is tributary to an adjacent wetland. Both the reservoir and the wetland ultimately drain to the Lower Basin of the Charles River. The quality of stormwater run-off from this property is critical to re­gional water supply and resources.

The basic site planning of the proj­ect was a positive response to the stormwater challenge. An uncom­mon component of suburban office developments, parking garages have been incorporated under the new buildings. Besides being a convenient amenity, these parking structures are an important aspect of the environmental response because fewer paved surfaces receiving precipitation mean that less polluted stormwater finds its way into the watershed.

The landscape design also contrib­utes to environmental protection. Drought resistant plant materials, indigenous to the region, minimize the need for irrigation water. Ad­ditionally, a large 200,000-gallon underground vault used previously for fire protection water storage was retrofitted for use as an irrigation water supply, reducing demand for water from municipal sources. The vault is filled by stormwater run-off from the roofs of the new buildings.

The stormwater drainage system was carefully designed to collect and clean stormwater prior to release from the site toward the reservoir, its release into the ground via infiltration or toward an attrac­tive, six-foot deep wet pond that doubles as a landscape feature. The wet pond “polishes” the water using naturally occurring biologi­cal processes before the water is released toward the Cambridge Reservoir.  

Use What You’ve Got

waterfall at 175-185 Wyman Street

The six-foot deep wet pond “polishes” the water using naturally occurring biological processes before the water is released toward the Cambridge Reservoir.

In addition to extensive site preparation, stormwater drainage and landscaping work, materials recycling played a major part in the construction of the two new build­ings. The original concrete and masonry block building on the site provided an ideal project in which to recycle an abundance of mate­rial. The average re-use on a project like this is about 75 percent. The Wyman Street project recycled over 95 percent of the former building.

Although the challenges of crush­ing such a large amount of mate­rial on-site involved dust control, stringent safety precautions and strict Department of Environmental Protection approval, the benefits far out-weighed any evident restric­tions. Of the 65,000 tons of mate­rial, which comprised the actual weight of the demolished build­ing, 61,000 tons of concrete and masonry block were crushed onsite and used as structural fill. Another 2,000 tons of steel were sent off-site, recycled, and the equivalent re-purchased for re-use in the new buildings. The remaining 2,000 tons of glass and other fine debris were crushed and transported off-site to serve as a fine-particulate cap to a landfill. The result of recycling these 63,000 tons of material onsite resulted in the prevention of 2,100 trips by truck to disposal facilities and a cost savings of nearly $500,000. In addition to the elimination of fuel pollution, carbon emissions, noise pollution, waste management and the obvious public safety savings of not having 2,100 trucks on area highways, the project savings were recognized in budget and schedul­ing surpluses.

Due to favorable site conditions and logistics in this suburban location, staging areas on-site were utilized to crush and pile the recycled material, something highly unlikely to occur in a dense urban setting. The designers took grading opportunities into consideration when putting together the building program so as to utilize as much material onsite as efficiently as possible. The designers created additional value by using footings and foundation walls of the existing building as part of the underground parking structure. Part of the old building footprint actually extends under the courtyard, where part of the underground parking is sited.

The project team, most of which had worked together previously, functioned like seasoned partners with a deep understanding of economic restrictions, environ­mental considerations, zoning and permitting and tenant consider­ations. Sound planning and strong technique are the benchmarks of the 175-185 Wyman Street project, the foundation for which will continue to persevere into the future.