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The Buzzards Bay Center

Credit: John Robson

The Buzzards Bay Center is more than just the headquarters for the Buzzards Bay Coalition. It is a learning center, community resource, and a vision for sustainable design in the watershed. The building, originally built in 1832, underwent a thorough green renovation and opened in 2010. In addition to staff offices, the Center is home to the Richard C. Wheeler Bay Learning Center, the Emerson Riggs Laboratory (home of the Baywatchers program), and the Croll Conference Room, a community meeting space.

About the Center

If the health of our Bay hinges on the choices we make on land, the Buzzards Bay Coalition saw no alternative but to make our new home one that minimizes its impact on our surroundings; a building whose renovation is guided by a sense of responsibility to our natural resources and the very Bay that drives our work. The Buzzards Bay Center is projected to use only 65 percent of the electricity consumed by a typical similar commercial building and stands as a model for low-impact, environmentally responsible renovation. The features that make it so are all costeffective, proven techniques that any homeowner or business could put into practice.

Our Green Features

Location

By situating our headquarters in the heart of New Bedford, we are investing in the future of this city which has always been central to Buzzards Bay. We are also conserving a lot of energy and resources by locating here. The reuse of an old building, which might otherwise be lost to waste, reduces the need for new building materials. And the urban location reduces transportation energy costs, and saves open, undeveloped land.

Materials

In designing the renovation, the Buzzards Bay Coalition put a priority on sustainable, local, and recycled materials, including the reuse of beams to create new flooring. The framing studs were harvested from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified forests. All other interior finishes, from paints to carpets, are nontoxic and either low or no VOC (volatile organic compounds). Our carpets are completely recyclable.

Building Envelope

The most important energy-saving feature of the Buzzards Bay Center can't be seen by visitors. It's buried in the walls. Dense closed-cell spray foam insulation separates the exterior brick and granite from the interior walls. Buildings typically have many tiny cracks, too small to be seen, that allow air to move between inside and outside. Filling these cracks is as important as installing insulation. A theater fog machine was used to detect unsealed cracks, and they were filled with foam or sealant. Finally, the building was outfitted with historically accurate double-glazed windows.

Mechanical Systems

Given the serious threats that fuel poses to Buzzards Bay — both as it is shipped through this delicate waterway and as a result of climate change — the Buzzards Bay Coalition aims to operate this building without reliance on fossil fuels. Air-source heat pumps efficiently heat and cool the building. Because of the efficient, tight building envelope, this system could be smaller than the standard unit, thus reducing cost and energy use. Energy-recovery ventilation systems, which transfer heat from the exhaust air to the intake air, supply fresh air while minimizing the amount of heating and cooling necessary to condition the intake air.

Water Conservation

Water is at the very core of our work at the Buzzards Bay Coalition. To curb our own use of this essential resource, the building was outfitted with waterless urinals and low-flow toilets and other fixtures.

Vegetated Roof

Perhaps the truly "greenest" aspect of the building's renovation is located up on the roof: a four inch carpet of plants and soil. The vegetated roof serves a number of functions. It keeps the building cooler in the summer, but more importantly, it absorbs rainwater-reducing the flow of stormwater runoff from the building into the streets by more than 50 percent. This lush roof serves as an important demonstration of how to reduce urban runoff in a city with a chronic and serious Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) problem. Combined sewer systems were common in many cities in the U.S. They were developed before 1900 and are designed to collect rainwater from streets and raw sewage from homes, in a single pipe. Under dry conditions, wastes are safely delivered to the city wastewater treatment plant prior to discharge, but when it rains, the pipes are overloaded and raw sewage is forced out of the system and into the harbor. By reducing the amount of rain that flows off our building, the Buzzards Bay Center is providing a new creative model for reducing CSO pollution.

Daylighting

One of the most efficient uses of solar energy is to use daylight instead of artificial lighting. The open floor plan maximizes access to natural light from the windows. The angled interior window openings direct more light to the inside. Triple-glazed clerestory windows on the roof pour daylight into the meeting room and library on the top floor. These windows are operable, to induce natural ventilation in these rooms; the high windows face north, to reap the benefit of even light without the heat and glare introduced by south-facing windows (a timeless technique used in many old mills).

Renewable Energy

Photovoltaic panels on the south-facing angles of the roof are set up to produce more than 4,000 kWh of clean energy a year, amounting to about 8 percent of the building's total electricity needs. Additional solar panels will be added to increase the amount of clean electricity we generate.

The Backstory

The Coggeshall Counting House was built in 1832 by John Coggeshall, Jr., a prominent merchant and ship owner in New Bedford. The four-story building was constructed to serve the city's whaling industry, with a chandlery on the first floors, counting rooms on the second, and space for sail and rigging lofts on the top floors. A series of fires damaged the building, including one in 1939 that destroyed its roof. Today, the façade has been restored to its former beauty, and the building has been outfitted to very high standards of energy efficiency.

Slideshow of the Buzzards Bay Center

by Photographer Peter Vanderwarker

We remodeled the old Coggeshall Counting House to conserve open space.
We remodeled the old Coggeshall Counting House to conserve open space.

       

Awards for the Buzzards Bay Center

In recognition of its innovative combination of green design and historic renovation, the Buzzards Bay Center has earned the following awards:

  • The Massachusetts Preservation Award from the Massachusetts Historical Commission.
  • The George C. Perkins President's Award from the Waterfront Historic Area League (WHALE), New Bedford's preeminent preservation organization.
  • The Elm Award from the New Bedford Preservation Society to honor outstanding preservation, restoration, or adaptive reuse of buildings in New Bedford.

Croll Conference Room

Your community group can rent the Croll Conference Room at the Buzzards Bay Center.

For details contact Lynn Coish at 508.999.6363 x200 or coish@savebuzzardsbay.org.