150 2nd Street, Cambridge, MA

150 2nd Street, Cambridge, MA

Jeff Adams

Skanska USA pursued a LEED Platinum rating for this spec lab building in order to create a competitive edge in the marketplace. The high-performance mechanical systems provide more than 30 percent energy cost savings over baseline references.

Skanska USA recently completed a three-story, 123,000-square-foot spec office and lab facility at 150 2nd Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts’ Kendall Square neighborhood. To gain a competitive edge in attracting the high-tech companies that proliferate around MIT, the developer/construction manager hired Boston-based Elkus Manfredi Architects and landscape firm Copley Wolff Design Group to deliver a cost-effective design that would set a new standard of sustainability for the project type in the region. In that pursuit, the project became the first commercial lab building in New England to be awarded LEED v3 Platinum certification.

Courtesy Elkus Manfredi

Located at a transitional point between Kendall Square’s larger office building core and a triple-decker residential district, the project’s massing and fenestration attempts to strike a happy medium between the two scales. While providing a high R value overall, the facade design is nothing fancy. “We architects like to talk about high performance buildings as being smart buildings, and we usually think of that as being an active solar control system or some high tech thing,” said Elkus Manfredi principal John Martin. “In that sense this building is not a smart building. We like to call it a clever building.”

To balance insulation values and daylight, the design team limited the amount of glass in the building enclosure to 42 percent, deciding on a stick-built ribbon window system with 1-inch-thick, low-e IGUs and straight-out-of-the-catalogue Kwaneer brise soleils on the southern exposures. The bulk of the envelope is made up of Alucobond metal panels, though in sections a brownish fiber cement board (Öko Skin) rain screen system breaks up the massing.


Structural Engineer
MEP/FP Engineer
WSP Group
The Green Engineer
Building Envelope
Simpson Gumpertz & Heger

Warren Jagger

Inside, the directive was column-free space. To create that, the design team had to span 50 feet from the core to the perimeter. With standard structural steel wide flange sections, reaching such a distance would require quite a deep, heavy beam, adding not only to the weight, cost, and floor-to-floor heights of the building, but also to its carbon foot print. To mitigate this condition, the design team opted to use composite steel trusses for the floor framing instead of wide flange sections, a decision that not only reduced the weight and carbon profile of the project, but also provided penetrations in the structure through which to run ducting, piping, wire chases, etc., and making for a more efficient floor section. As a result of this choice, the design saved 188 tons of structural steel.

As an urban design gesture, the L-shaped building features a public entry court on the corner of 2nd and Bent streets, which faces a future public park to the southeast of the building. The court is outfitted with ipe benches and bike racks and locally sourced, light-colored paving that meets the LEED solar reflectance index value of below 29. It also features rain gardens planted with native and drought resistant vegetation—sweet gum and red maple trees, native holly shrubs, and sedges and ornamental grasses—that were designed to absorb all stormwater that falls on the court.

In December 2013, Skanska USA reportedly sold 150 2nd Street to Alexandria Real Estate Equities for $94.5 million, or $766 per square foot. While we can assume the company made a handy profit on the project (the project cost was not released as of press time) it has also established an important precedent: a sustainable, cost-effective, and easily repeatable model of lab development.