ACC’s Northeastern University Project Aims to be First LEED Platinum Student Housing in Boston

by Katie Sloan

Boston — A public-private partnership between American Campus Communities (ACC) and Northeastern University resulted in the opening of LightView in September of this year. The 20-story development is targeting Platinum certification from The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the highest level of its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

The LEED for Homes Mid-Rise Rating system is comprised of a list of industry best-practices divided into requirements and optional credits in several categories. “There are a few areas where Lightview claims stand-out performance,” says Mark Price, a LEED consultant on the project. “One biggie is location and proximity to amenities, which can reduce automobile dependency — a perfect match for students. Just based on location, the project achieves excellent performance within the LEED rating system.”

A considerable amount of effort was spent in constructing an intact air-barrier that separates each dwelling, which is an often-overlooked feature but one that will ensure better energy efficiency, air-quality, comfort and sound-attenuation from adjacent apartments. This air-barrier was third-party performance tested throughout construction. By minimizing air and sound exchange between apartments, Lightview provides all occupants a higher-quality living experience separated from activities in other units. When selecting finishes, the designers chose low-VOC paints, adhesives, flooring and carpets, and provided high-efficacy fresh air and filtration, all to ensure a premium indoor environment.

“We see the integration of sustainable features into our communities as a critical component of delivering the best living experience,” says Jason Wills, senior vice president of development. “It is important that students know that a community can be sustainable while also being comfortable and affordable.” 

The 825-bed student apartment community, designed by CUBE 3 and Elkus Manfredi Architects, is located adjacent to the southeastern border of the university’s campus in Boston and offers primarily four-person units with shared or private accommodations. Community amenities all designed and constructed with sustainability in mind include social and recreational lounges, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a 24-hour academic success center and 2,000 square feet of retail.

The ACC development is energy- and resource-efficient in a number of ways. Some of the project’s green features include high-efficacy LED lighting throughout; high-efficiency, low-water laundry; low-flow showerheads, lavatory faucets and toilets; and high-performance landscape irrigation. 

In addition to the building’s physical features, services will also advance energy efficiency. Maintenance will conduct preventive maintenance on HVAC systems every 60 days as well as monthly light audits in common areas every 30 days. Recycling bins and containers are accessible throughout the community.

“Our commitment to students includes helping protect the future of their environment by making sustainable behavior a common part of daily living,” Wills says.  “There are LED and sensory lighting in the units and common areas that promote efficiency and create a calming ambiance. Our HVAC preventative maintenance regimen ensures optimum efficiency as well as comfortable temperatures for residents. Recycling becomes convenient with containers in the units and a collection room on every floor.”

Healthy and sustainable interiors were a priority in the design of LightView. Low-emitting interior paints, coatings, adhesives, sealants, flooring and finishes were specified that meet qualifying air quality standards. Construction practices to limit airborne dust, debris and moisture from being trapped inside the building were taken into consideration. Smoking is strictly prohibited in the building and grounds. To control entry of dust, debris and pollutants that contribute to poor indoor air quality, there are walk off mats and downstairs bike storage, which can be entered right from the street.

Building materials were selected for environmental purposes to limit the impact associated with greenhouse gas emissions. Although there are natural wood finishes, all wood is certified. The design team chose materials that are high in recycled content or that are locally sourced as much as possible. 

“It’s not only the right thing to do; it also makes good business sense,” says Wills. “We are generating long-term value through operational efficiencies that benefit the residential experience, our community and our stakeholders.”

The building is privately owned and operated by ACC and will be added to the company’s other 17 LEED certified properties around the country. It is the first LEED Platinum-targeted student housing facility in Boston. The transaction was structured under the American Campus Equity (ACE) program, a public-private partnership that provides on-campus housing to universities without using their funds or tax-payer dollars.

— Lynn Peisner

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