Going Green: How Modern Atriums Benefit the Workplace
A recent study conducted by Harvard reaffirmed the positive impact that bringing the outdoors in has at work and at home. According to the research, green-certified offices, which utilize plants to enliven the work setting, boost cognition by 26%, reduce sick days by 30% and increase sleep quality by 6%.
Clearly, the benefits of green office features are far reaching. Developers and architects frequently use atriums and other green features in their design plans based on their ability to circulate light and ventilation into the interior of buildings. A modern example of this centuries-long trend recently garnered attention thanks to Amazon and its launch of “Spheres” – giant glass and steel dome structures filled with tropical plants that serve as new work environments for its Seattle-based employees.
Building a 90-foot-tall, multifaceted environment like this takes skill, know-how and creativity. In order to reflect the tropical weather associated with Central America, heat is recycled through a data-center complex that radiates throughout the site’s three towers, and then piped into the concrete floor. Cool-air vents, masked as fake logs, are located in areas where plants are clustered. And custom interior lights adjust automatically in response to changes in the weather.
Across the country, the City of Boston has its own rich history of integrating atriums into its buildings. The Boston Exchange Coffee House and Hotel, which opened in 1809 on Congress Street, is often cited as the country’s first modern hotel and the first to incorporate an indoor garden environment into its design. The five-story atrium was the center of the hotel, ringed by balconies and enclosed in a large glass paneled dome.
Today, several new Boston developments will be implementing modernized atriums as well. Here are a few noteworthy local projects:
- One project that has just received approval for its proposed revitalization is 135 Morrissey, at the site of the Boston Globe’s former headquarters. The project proposal includes a new entrance featuring a multi-story atrium space, which will act as the building’s hub, the perfect setting for collaborative meeting spaces. The entire front façade will include floor-to-ceiling glass walls, allowing natural light to brighten the building. This space will also be open to the public during work hours.
- An atrium addition at 100 Federal Street in the Financial District, which has been underway for the past year, will contain an 8,990-square-foot year-round garden, as well as retail and kiosk space. All of the daylight brought into the building will significantly decrease energy costs, and proper heating and ventilation systems will help maintain plant life.
- There have been several high profile additions to the burgeoning Kendall Square area that currently spotlight atriums. For instance, the newly opened 380,000 square foot lab and office property at 75-125 Binney Street, in the dynamic hub of the country’s premier biotech and IT industries, features a dramatic spiral staircase within a five-story, all-season atrium. Likewise, a six-story atrium also conjoins the neighborhood’s impressive state-of-the-art life science space located at the Cambridge Science Center as well as a revitalization of Carter’s Ink Building at 245 First Street. And, finally, Google’s Cambridge office features an atrium between 5 and 3 Cambridge Center, with a glass-walled connector that includes public and retail space.
- On the opposite side of the city, and just a short walk from the Alewife transit station in North Cambridge, the Charles River Analytics headquarters at 625 Mount Auburn Street underwent a renovation and now includes on-site parking, a fitness center and a cafe in addition to a two-story atrium lobby.
- In addition to textbook interior courtyards, other large open spaces in Boston developments are capturing the spirit of these gardens. For example, the Winthrop Square Garage project – which just recently broke ground – will feature a 12,000-square-foot public space. The Great Hall will span the building’s first three floors and will contain restaurant, retail and meeting space.
Here at JM Electrical, we have outfitted our new office with a number of exotic plants and are considering building a plant wall as part of our efforts to create a modern, collaborative work environment. We are hopeful that this will encourage creativity and teamwork within our staff. With plants enhancing the workplace – from improving mental health to saving energy – developments across the country are wise to “think green” when designing new spaces.