LEEDing the Way

By Nancy E. Berry on March 13, 2012

Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital’s new Lunder Building, designed by NBBJ, achieves a LEED NC Gold rating while offering the latest technologies in patient care.


A six-story atrium is filled with hanging plants to promote a calm, serene environment as well as flood spaces with natural light.


The Lunder Building has a green roof.


NBBJ also designed the Lunder Buildings interiors that focus on sustainable finishes and furnishings as well as soothing spaces that promote a healing environment.


The Lunder Building fits into the urban fabric of the city.


The building has 28 operating and procedure suites.


The private patient rooms are filled with natural light and overlook either gardens, the Charles River, or historic Beacon Hill.


The intensive care unit overlooks a bamboo garden at Mass General’s Lunder Building.

Property: MGH Lunder Building, Boston, MA
Owner: Partners Healthcare
Architect: NBBJ
Construction: Turner Construction Size: 530,000 square feet/ 14 floors
LEED: New Construction Gold

The latest addition to the Massachusetts General Hospital’s (MGH) Beacon Hill campus opened last summer, achieving its goals of environmental conservation and state-of-the-art patient care. The new Lunder Building houses five in-patient floors for medical oncology and neurosciences, 28 operating suites, a central sterile processing and supplies department, a materials management department and radiation oncology services—all wrapped in a cloak of sustainability. “We worked on the project much like you would a fine Swiss watch—there are so many intricate pieces that have to work together,” says principal Joan Saba of NBBJ, a world-class architectural firm that specializes in sustainable design.

Working alongside MGH’s architects, doctors, and health care administrators, NBBJ set a goal to create the greenest facility possible that would be dedicated to excellent patient care and families. “We took a holistic, integrated approach to the design,” says Jay Siebenmorgen, NBBJ’s lead designer on the project. “We wanted to maximize open space and light to offer connections to the outside for patients and staff.” The building was awarded a LEED Gold certification for its design, which includes energy conservation, water efficiency, and carbon dioxide emission reductions.

Natural Elements

One of the most visible aspects of the green design is the amount of natural light flooding the patient rooms and common areas. “We brought as much natural light into the building as possible along with greenery,” notes Craig Brimley of NBBJ, who managed the LEED certification process. Large glass walls enclose a central atrium, which is filled with self-watering hanging plants. Patient rooms also have large floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto historic Beacon Hill or the Charles River. The building’s gardens—on the roof and sixth floor—can be seen from patient rooms in the Lunder Building as well as from the adjacent MGH Yawkey Center for outpatient care.

Christine Vandover, NBBJ’s lead interior designer for the project, explains, “The connection to nature is calming—there have been many studies to show natural light is healing.” It has been found that patients have shorter hospital stays when surrounded by natural light. “There have also been case studies showing that worker fatigue drops off when they are working in natural light opposed to an enclosed box,” notes Vandover.

Recycled Materials

The team also used recycled materials in the new design to earn LEED points. Ninety-four percent of demolition and construction debris was recycled or diverted from a landfill. “We chose materials with recycled or renewable content, such as rubber or linoleum,” notes Vandover. “Bamboo was also chosen as a wall finish for many spaces because it’s a renewable resource.”

More than 90 percent of the wood used on the project was FSC-certified. “We also sourced local materials as much as possible,” says Vandover. “The rubber floor is a good choice not only because it doesn’t off-gas, but also because it has great soundproofing properties. The building is remarkably quiet, which also aids in creating a calming atmosphere.”

Energy and Water Conservation

To conserve energy, the glass walls feature a glazing system that minimizes heat gain and loss while allowing daylight to enter. This system improves thermal performance by 39 percent and reduces solar heat gain by 31 percent. The energy savings are made possible by VAV systems, high-efficiency chillers and electrical motors, and heat recovery systems. The 12-percent reduction in energy translates into more than 6,000,000 kWh conserved. “The goal was to not only save energy, but also save the hospital money on its energy bills,” says Brad Seamans, senior project manager at MGH. “It’s projected that there will be $700,000 savings in power costs each year.”

NBBJ also reduced water consumption by more than 20 percent (or 1.4 million gallons per year) by installing low-flow fixtures, such as toilets. “We could not install low-flow faucets everywhere due to infection control standards,” notes Vandover. To eliminate the use of potable water for plant irrigation, systems have been installed to capture rainwater and air-cooling condensate for irrigation of the building’s gardens and plants.

Healthy Indoor Air

The finishes and furnishings throughout the building have either low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). An enhanced ventilation system helps ensure a constant supply of clean, healthy air and an odor- and toxin-free environment.

“We chose an inviting palette for the interiors,” says Vandover. “Even the operating rooms, which cannot have natural light due to functional requirements, were washed with soothing colors.” The colors are natural and grounded—a mix of brown, blue, and green tones. “Carpets are made of natural materials that don’t off-gas, and we also chose non-PVC window shades and shower curtains,” says Vandover.

Both the staff and patients are noticing the positive effects of the thoughtful, integrated design geared toward sustainability and wellness. “I had a patient tell me they felt like they were at a spa,” says Dr. Andrea Paciello, executive director of radiation oncology at MGH. “That was a great feeling.”

Enhancing the Urban Environment

Nestled into Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood, the Lunder Building needed to relate not only to the hospital campus, but also to its urban setting. “We wanted to factor in transportation to the Lunder Building,” says Siebenmorgen. “We incorporated bike storage and lockers for staff who commute by bicycle.” The Lunder Building is also one of several buildings on the MGH campus that provides an indoor route for pedestrians from the Charles/MGH MBTA station on Cambridge Street through the campus complex to the West End—a key hospital route during Boston’s harsh winters.

The building’s greenery, in addition to being an important visual component, also improves the view from adjacent buildings and helps to enhance the local air quality. The reflective roof materials reduce residual heat gains, and carefully selected light fixtures help reduce nighttime light pollution. Delivery trucks and ambulances enter through the building’s core to keep noise and activity off neighborhood streets.


Windows Framework by Sota; glass by Viracon
Flooring Rubber by Nora; carpet tiles by Shaw
Walls Gypsum wallboard from USG
Paints Sherwin-Williams Progreen 200 Interior Latex
Ceiling Armstrong Ultima High Recycled Content tiles