Our Environmental Commitment
WGBH is proud to be LEED-certified by the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. And we’re pleased that the American Institute of Architects, along with then Mayor Thomas Menino, singled us out as one of Boston’s greenest buildings.
We signal our longstanding commitment to the environment through our programs and services, and also through our actions as an employer and community leader. Our 2007 relocation to Boston’s Brighton neighborhood gave us a chance to become an even greener WGBH — and to increase public awareness of solutions companies like ours can take that have a positive impact on the environment.
WGBH also is recognized by the City of Boston as a Bike Friendly Business. A wide range of initiatives support and encourage WGBH employees who bike for commuting, exercise, or fun, and we offer covered parking for visitors on bicycles to foster a greener community.
Signs and graphics throughout our Brighton studios — including in the spaces where we welcome the public for screenings, performances, and other events — point to WGBH’s environmental strategies and their impact. Docents leading our free studio tours highlight WGBH’s efforts and their effect.
Here's how we earned our LEED status:
Reclaiming a brownfield
The South side of our One Guest Street site formerly was occupied by the BFI Carting company as their maintenance shop, and had been declared a “brownfield” site (that is, a property whose expansion, redevelopment or reuse may be complicated by hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants). As preparation for WGBH’s construction, soil contaminated with oil and cleaning fluids was removed to designated landfills and the site was cleaned and reclaimed.
The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are more than 450,000 brownfields across the country. Cleaning up and investing in the sustainable reuse of these properties improves and protects the environment (in addition to increasing local tax bases and facilitating job growth).
During demolition and construction of our facility, WGBH employed optimal waste management techniques, recycling 82% of our construction waste. We properly disposed of all waste to the appropriate landfills and separated out different types of construction waste to maximize recycling.
Reclaiming materials rather than destroying them as waste both conserves energy and preserves natural resources. Many materials used in the construction of this facility were recycled. The steel, most visible in the diagonal trusses in the Guest Street connector, was 95% recycled. Other products with a high percentage of recycled content included sheetrock, wooden doors and flooring materials.
Locally sourced materials
Materials sourced from within 500 miles of WGBH’s site cut down on transportation and energy costs. Among the materials obtained from our region for this project were steel, glass, aluminum, sheetrock, and metal studs.
The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative awarded a grant to WGBH for the installation of solar panels that generate approximately 50 kilowatts of power adjacent to our green roof and some 50 kilowatts of power on the roof of the Guest Street connector. WGBH's eco-friendly digital mural is powered in part by these solar panels.
Water-saving toilets and urinals
In all our new construction we used low-flow toilets and waterless urinals that save 40% of their normal water usage. The dual-flush toilets installed by WGBH save an estimated 645,150 gallons a year. Our waterless urinals save over a million gallons a year. In addition, all our new sinks have automatic shutoff and all showerheads are low-flow.
Optimized energy efficiency
WGBH’s Brighton facility was planned to take advantage of the most energy-efficient products available, including the motors in our mechanical and electrical systems as well as our printers, refrigerators, microwaves, and other appliances. We used high-efficiency florescent lighting throughout our building, and motion sensors turn off lights in unoccupied areas, reducing our use of electricity.
Ultraviolet glass, particularly visible on our Guest Street connector, combined with frit patterns on the glass and automated sun shading, reduces heat buildup and decreases the need for heating and air conditioning.
Powered in part by solar panels atop the WGBH roof, our digital mural exemplifies our goal of engaging the communities we serve. It also underscores our commitment to the environment. The most energy-efficient display of its kind on the market, the LED screen operates at a fraction of its power capacity from 6:30am to 8pm. At night, it reverts to a tranquil “screen saver” image of the evening sky.
Chlorofluorocarbons eat away at the Earth’s protective ozone layer and lead to increased ultraviolet radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. (Increased UV rays also are linked to skin cancer, cataracts, suppressed immune systems, and other health problems; CFCs indirectly can contribute to these conditions.) WGBH’s new HVAC and refrigeration units are zero-CFC-rated. These include both the main chiller in the mechanical room of our South side studio area and the rooftop units visible on the roof of our West side offices.
Indoor air quality
The quantity of fresh air circulated throughout our facility meets or exceeds new energy and health codes, benefiting all visitors and employees but especially people with allergies, chemical sensitivities, or respiratory problems. We typically mix 20% fresh air with re-circulated air, and we use high-efficiency charcoal filters in all our HVAC equipment.
Many products found in indoor environments release low levels of toxic emissions into the air for years after application. A goal for our relocation to new studios was to specify as many products as possible — paints, carpets, fabrics, solvents, adhesives, sealants — to be low- or zero-emitting. These products are not only healthier; they offer easier clean-up with soap and water, safer and simplified disposal, better performance and coverage, and low odor. A side benefit to a healthier indoor environment: increased productivity and reduced health-related down time.
WGBH put into practice the latest preventive strategies to assure that our air system would be clear and clean when we moved in. During the construction process, all air ducts were sealed to protect them from debris and dust. Unsealing them only after the project was completed and completely flushing the system before occupancy benefits our indoor environment.
Before staff moved into our new studios, all ventilation systems were run for two weeks at full force with totally fresh air to assure that any residual contaminates from construction were flushed out of the building.
Green roof and landscaping
WGBH successfully applied for a grant from KeySpan to install 10 feet of low-maintenance, low-water greenery along the third-floor rooftop on the South side of our Brighton facility. The benefits of this “green roof”: reduced rainwater runoff (the plants soak up the rain) and insulation (plantings keep the building warmer in winter, cooler in summer).
WGBH planted 25 large urban shade trees around the perimeter of our facility, and 11 additional trees on the opposite side of Market Street, enhancing the main corridor into Brighton Center.
Maureen Ruettgers, a generous member of WGBH’s Board of Trustees, arranged for 3,000 daffodil bulbs to be planted along Market Street. This gift to WGBH and our neighborhood honors the guiding aesthetic and design force behind our Brighton studios, Chris Pullman, who for 35 years served as WGBH’s Vice President for Branding and Visual Design.
According to the American Public Transportation Association, public transportation reduces US gasoline consumption by 1.4 billion gallons a year — the equivalent of 108 million cars filling up, almost 300,000 a day. (In addition, households using public transportation save an average of more than $6,200 a year.) Our efforts to promote the use of the MBTA is in keeping with the expressed priorities of the City of Boston. To encourage the use of public transportation, WGBH worked with partners to create shelters for the two bus stops that serve our Brighton facility.
Bike racks under our West side and inside the entrance of our parking garage facilitate this alternative transportation mode. Approximately 5% of our employee population commutes by bike, and we hope to encourage others. Bike riding is a pollution-free means of transport. It also is a healthy form of exercise.
WGBH employees who carpool are eligible for preferred parking spaces. Carpooling decongests roads, saves gas, and reduces pollution and carbon dioxide emissions (thereby reducing global warming). It also diminishes stress and promotes community.
As part of our efforts to encourage the use of public transportation, WGBH provides (through the Brighton Landing condo association that includes New Balance and other companies) a free employee shuttle service to the Red and Green MBTA lines.
Prior to our move, we created a swap shop so staff could recycle rather than discard unwanted materials — from lamps to ring binders to paper stock. Office materials collected from the swap were distributed to several local schools.
Instructions and information about our relocation were distributed to employees electronically, rather than on paper, via our e-bulletin and intranet.
Working with Walsh Movers and their subsidiary iShred, we used hundreds of recyclable plastic crates to pack our Allston offices. As an added benefit, Walsh/iShred chose WGBH’s relocation to inaugurate their Pink Crates project, whereby a portion of crate-rental proceeds go toward research, education, screening, and treatment of breast cancer. WGBH chose our neighbor, Brighton’s St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, as the recipient of this largesse.