Macallen Building Boston
South Boston’s LEED Gold-certified Macallen Building. Photo by Wade Roush (Flickr).
As a New Englander, I always feel as though we are a bit behind the “green” times. It is not that people aren’t interested in sustainability, but it seems a challenge to execute. So, now that the Macallen Building, a LEED Gold-certified condominium complex in downtown Boston, is one of the hottest places to now call home, New Englanders have a little room to brag. The Macallen Building is the first multifamily building in New England to receive LEED Gold certification. Previously a parking lot, the 140-unit complex is said to be the first “true green” condo development in South Boston (a neighborhood known as “Southie” to the locals). Boasting 34 different floor plans with amazing luxuries, units move quickly in the Macallen Building. Not only are the one-, two- and three-bedroom loft-style units for sale, but a few are also for rent. The 12-story building was constructed using nontoxic and recycled materials. A whopping 75% of construction materials were recycled. The building’s walls contain all-cotton insulation, and interiors are adorned with wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Wheatboard-core cabinets can be found in the kitchens and each unit has low-VOC finishes. Floor-to-ceiling windows let in natural light and are insulated for better heating. The narrow building layout, built to mimic a ship’s hull, provides such a nice dose of natural illumination to interior rooms that artificial daytime light is rarely needed, even on cloudy Boston days. With low-energy-consumption fixtures and systems, the Macallen’s innovative technologies will save over 600,000 gallons of water annually while consuming 30% less electricity than a conventional building. Each residence is warmed by a heat pump that taps the Trigen Energy Corporation steam lines that run underneath the street. There are three urban landscapes that surround the Macallen Building. There is a public court at the ground level with trees and permeable concrete pavers to catch any runoff. The second landscape is a 20,000-square-foot recreational terrace located above the parking garage. Trees have been planted and a garden has been designed so that it can be viewed from the above residences. Inside the parking garage is a cistern that receives water runoff from the planted roof. The final urban landscape is the roof itself. A terrace garden and a sloping green roof helped account for the building’s LEED certification. Not only does the planted roof provide insulation during the winter months, but its mission is to also reduce runoff. At the time of its construction, the Macallen Building had the steepest sloping green roof in the U.S., covered with a slew of drought-tolerant sedums and native grasses. Developed by Pappas Enterprises, the Macallen Building has received some negative reviews from locals. It has been said that the cost is too high ($440,000 for a one-bedroom unit and up to $2.8 million for a three-bedroom unit), which then leads to the unfortunate perception that going green is a luxury. Yet, the Macallen’s many amenities speak for themselves: a three-season heated swimming pool, a fitness room, a screening room, 24-hour concierge, gas grills and wireless Internet for its residents. An added urban touch: a Zipcar station is conveniently located in the parking garage. All of these amenities are reflected in the cost of each unit. This New Englander thinks that the Macallen Building is a step in the right direction for the region. With the building and its landscape so well linked, the Macallen Building could be a project that other developers strive to emulate (perhaps with fewer frills so the cost of going green is more affordable for everyone).