Member Spotlight: Devanshi Purohit, CBT
Devanshi Purohit, AICP - Associate Principal, CBT
April 24, 2023
By Catherine Rollins
On April 13, the ULI Boston/New England Young Leaders Group (YLG) hosted a lunch, panel discussion, and tour of the newly opened Boston University Center for Computing and Data Science at 665 Commonwealth Avenue, with over 135 member and guests in attendance.
The distinctive 345,000 square foot, 19-story fossil fuel free building was completed in 2022 and features 31 geothermal wells, triple glazed windows, and external shades to reduce solar gain. It sits 5 feet higher than suggested guidelines for sea level rise, promoting its resiliency.
The panel, moderated by Dave Litwin, Development Associate, RMR Group and YLG Membership Chair, included Brianna Lynch, HVAC Design Engineer at BR+A; Dennis Carlberg, Associate Vice President for Sustainability and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Boston University; Lucy Timbers, Senior Associate at KPMB; and John Dalzell, Senior Architect for Sustainable Development at the Boston Planning and Development Agency.
During the panel discussion, Dennis Carlberg explained that the Center was aligned with Boston University’s climate action plan, which included goals of attaining net zero by 2040 and emissions reductions of 64%. “This building epitomizes our climate action,” he noted. The Center is fossil fuel free and carbon neutral, with energy sourced from Boston University Wind. “We spent a lot of time looking at the numbers. Additional cost for geothermal and energy efficient systems was less than 1% more.” With less space required for mechanical systems, an entire floor that would have been mechanical is now program space.
Throughout the university’s climate planning process, they engaged with the City of Boston on the BERDO (Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance) process and zero-net zoning, bringing knowledge to the table and working collaboratively.
John Dalzell noted that Boston University has been a great partner for the city as Boston works towards its goal to be carbon-neutral by 2050. Boston’s efforts represent one of the first instances of a municipality examining all its emissions and considering how to go from the status quo to zero. The City’s climate action plan focuses on new construction, which are blank-slate opportunities. “It’s really all about leadership,” said Dalzell. “This is a really rich moment of leadership at the institutional level, in partnership with the City.” There are currently 3 net-zero buildings in Boston, with 4 in construction and another 5 in planning.
Lucy Timbers spoke about the Center’s design, which was chosen through an international design competition. “This building identifies Boston University in the city and shows its commitment in the data sciences,” she noted. “We also wanted to create a hub for everyone to meet, for people to study and work, interact. Siting always impacts how we think about what the architecture will be. How do you create something that is as convivial as a regular campus, in a dense vertical design?” With the design and distinctive massing of the Center, “…you have a sense of being in the neighborhood.”
Brianna Lynch discussed the mechanical design process to reduce loads, increase how many efficient HVAC systems were used, and eliminate fossil fuels. “It takes leadership, for designers to be bold, and for equipment vendors to invest with us… there’s continuous research and development that we’re seeing on the vendor side as well,” said Lynch. The new Massachusetts stretch energy code includes new options that will bring us closer to carbon neutrality, she noted.
The building houses the Boston University Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences, the Mathematics & Statistics Department, and Computer Science programs, the BU Spark! technology incubator, as well as the Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering. “A faculty member asked, ‘Where have all the students come from?’” said Dennis Carlberg, with a laugh. “The students absolutely love it.”
Don’t have an account? Sign up for a ULI guest account.