Boston University’s Center for Computing & Data Sciences: a sustainable relocation project for MovePlan
28th March 2023
Boston University’s Center for Computing & Data Sciences in Boston, Massachusetts, is a 19-story building designed by KPMB Architects and is the most environmentally friendly building in the city.
While its exterior design has generated many of the headlines, it is its environmental credentials which will see it lead the way in building sustainability. At 350,000 square feet, it is the largest carbon-neutral building in Boston, free of fossil fuels, and relying on geothermal wells for heating and cooling. External shading and triple-glazed glass windows minimise energy consumption and the building’s electricity is matched with renewable energy generated from BU Wind, a power purchase agreement with a wind farm in South Dakota.
Relocating four faculties into one new building
MovePlan was the University’s move partner, chosen to relocate a number of disparate departments into one new building: the Faculty of Computing & Data Science, Computer Science, Mathematics and Statistics, and the Hariri Institute.
With the new building seeking to place collaboration at the heart of its design, several aspects, such as whiteboard walls to encourage ideation, small gathering spaces to encourage conversations and a central atrium running the entire length of the building featuring platforms intended for group working, meant that many ways of working had to be revised.
Chris Colón, Workplace Project Director at MovePlan, led the project: “Previously, many faculty members had private offices with solid door fronts which provided complete privacy. The new building has glass office fronts, which enables more natural light into the space, but does provide for full visibility into the offices.”
This meant that a large part of the relocation project involved ensuring all members of staff seamlessly adjusted to some of the new features of the building. “The main challenge we faced was in fundamentally changing the way the occupants used the new building given the progressive, sustainable design.”
A behaviour change program had to be implemented to encourage a new way of working.
Furthermore, the new building’s environmental credentials meant that there were changes in the way that staff members and lecturers worked: from adjusting to less storage space, to reducing the belongings they could relocate to the new building.
“Some changes included windows needing to be free of posters, which would block natural light, piles of books and papers had to be removed to enable the building to be a fully open and shared working space, and recycling points in communal areas meant no one had their own bins. These may seem fairly trivial on the surface, but it meant altering decades worth of ingrained working behaviours. And for some reason, people just like having their own bins!”.
A huge behaviour change programme across the entirety of the departments had to be implemented in order to encourage a new way of working to be adopted.
Behaviour change supported by clear communication
In addition to the change in working behaviours, the new building was designed with sustainability at its core. As a result, all activity involved with moving the computing and data sciences departments from the original building had to support and assist the University’s sustainability goals.
Approaches had to be adopted quickly and members had to adapt. This meant long term preparedness.
Working with the University’s Director of Sustainability, Chris and his team developed a set of communications that clearly outlined what every member of staff had to do to prepare for the move; from what to expect in the new building, the new layout and function areas, to the new sustainability culture. MovePlan’s communications approach was to highlight the design intent and sustainability of the building and from this, to outline expectations around new behaviours.
Chris Colón: “It was imperative that all approaches were adopted quickly and that members adapted quickly. This meant long term preparedness.” Communications were developed and shared a year before the move and two-way engagement with all faculty members, staff and students was encouraged, which meant that on the day of the move, everyone was ready to implement the new changes and settle into the new building.
Relocation and implementation saw adaptation and, ultimately, adoption
The relocation had its challenges, not least the ingrained behaviour changes that were required upon relocation to the new building. “Despite a year of preparation and communication around the new ways of working, it is human nature to find ways to circumnavigate around new behaviours!”
Jeff Hoseth, Senior Project Manager, Major Projects at Campus Planning & Operations, Boston University, said: “Planning for and moving four academic departments into the new building, including all of the contents for 402 staff offices over two phases, was significant. MovePlan worked directly with the departments, helping them to see their office layouts with shelf space and file capacities, but also providing general orientation information to visualise their new environment. Services provided included a detailed inventory of all existing contents and equipment to be moved, overseeing the selection of a moving company and managing the move itself, and troubleshooting all post move-in questions with follow up as needed. Initial installation of office technology was provided and included carefully packing and setting up 199 computers with 230 monitors. Overall 2,850 crates of office contents were moved.”
The overall feedback was one of pride. Chris Colón concludes: “With new, modern facilities to call home, and having all colleagues under one roof, there was a real sense of excitement among faculty members, staff and students. The biggest sense of achievement is seeing members of staff adapting to a new open, flexible, sustainable and environmentally conscious way of working.”
An open, flexible, sustainable and environmentally conscious way of working