The John W. Olver Transit Center is designed to generate through renewable sources all the energy that it uses, meaning its net-energy consumption over the course of a year will be zero. At its core, the building contains a number of seemingly contradictory impulses.
Charles Rose Architects was mindful of citizens’ desires for a building that linked to Greenfield’s history and was a highly innovative carbon-neutral building, which our ARRA stimulus funding allowed us to do. The materials we chose for the exterior—brick, copper and locally sourced stone—are a respectful nod to the downtown business district and its stately dark-brick buildings.
Yet the transit center represents a radical departure from those energy-guzzling structures, anticipating the future and President Obama’s executive order requiring that all new federal buildings achieve net-zero by 2030. The dark brick cladding the western side may pay homage to Greenfield’s past, but its main purpose is green: a high-tech strategy in managing the building’s exposure to afternoon sun. In parts, the brick dissolves and the façade becomes a kind of skein; these patterns are computer-generated and control the amount of heat entering the building’s interior in summer and winter.
And while brick and stone imbue the center with a rooted-in-place quality, the building’s form conveys a sense of fluidity—a visual cue of the building’s purpose. Our design bends the building toward the northern end, which gives the center a sense of motion or perhaps a current running through the structure. If successful, it will generate currents of change: local officials are looking to the transit center to spark downtown revitalization and sustainable development.