Union Point: Beyond Smart and Green

By David P. Manfredi, FAIA, LEED AP - Founding Principal, Elkus Manfredi Architects on 10/5/2017

Union Point is a new city on 1,500 acres at the intersecting point of the towns of Weymouth, Rockland, and Abington, Massachusetts. Elkus Manfredi Architects has developed the master plan for Union Point with Sasaki Associates.

Union Point is more than a Smart City. Rooted in a human-scaled, 21st-century urbanism, it combines the attributes and energy of a city – including elements such as easy access to public transportation, entertainment and sports venues, education, art, and culture – with 1,000 acres of protected habitat linked to a network of 50 miles of trails plus public parks, open spaces, and pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly roadways. Union Point will combine tomorrow’s communications and smart-living/working technologies for an all-inclusive environment featuring living, workplace, and leisure options that will foster a connected, diverse community.

Union Point is one of the largest remaining parcels of its size in the highly sought-after metropolitan Boston area. As one of only a handful of projects of comparable scale and ambition in the country and around the globe, Union Point is the first of these ground-up developments that is designed as a Smart City. More than just intelligent and unbounded connectivity through an open-source digital technology platform, Union Point, at its heart, is being created as a pioneer city focused on unleashing the potential of the human spirit in an inclusive community that can enhance and invigorate the human experience.

What is a “Smart City?” A Smart City is a connected urban environment that integrates multiple information and communication technologies to manage a city's assets, improve the efficiency of services, and meet residents' needs.

Union Point is also a sustainable community: development will occupy about one-third of the property, leaving 1,000 acres as natural habitat. Elkus Manfredi has designed a flexible framework of buildings, streets, open spaces, and greenways as the foundation for the sustainable and healthy evolution of the community over time.

The multinational professional services firm, Arup, has built a complementary and scalable infrastructure master plan to address Union Point’s zero-carbon future and guide the stewardship of its natural water and energy resources. Solar collectors and heat pumps will be part of the power system. Storage batteries will save electric power for future uses, and streets will be designed for pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as our vehicular (autonomous) car future. At least 90% of the roofs without mechanical function, such as solar collection sites, will be green, planted to provide garden spaces that reduce heat-island effects and address stormwater runoff, graywater re-use, and green wastewater treatment solutions.

Union Point is unique. Elkus Manfredi Architects has been committed to an agenda of sustainability since our founding in 1988, but this is an opportunity to think about those issues at scale, and to move them beyond sustainability to a more regenerative vision. This is not just one building or block of buildings; this is a new city that includes offices, residences, retail, technology, and more.

LStar Ventures, Union Point’s developer, has made a commitment to see Union Point through to completion, an undertaking that requires vision, a talented team of experts, steely determination, and considerable resources. An example of LStar’s singular commitment: early in the process, LStar, unlike previous would-be developers, invested extensive time and energy in winning the consensus of the three towns in which Union Point is located.

Nurturing a community will be an important test for this forward-thinking development. Union Point is about trying to make places that change people’s experience and therefore their behaviors. Elkus Manfredi believes that the quality of our environment affects the quality of our lives. When you walk and bike instead of sitting in cars, your lifestyle is healthier and you are more connected to your neighbors. Union Point envisions an enhanced human experience in which a culturally rich environment can educate and inspire a community, igniting the collective potential.  

Curiosity is one essential element that makes good architecture and urban planning: you have to look, listen, and learn. It is extraordinarily hard to put together a project that is as large as Union Point and only 20 minutes from Boston with access to public transportation and the cooperation of three towns. In order to design and build Union Point, the team of LStar Ventures, Elkus Manfredi Architects, and Sasaki Associates has undergone a process of intense looking and listening. We have learned a great deal.

Union Point is a living laboratory for what we believe in: a community that can serve as a paradigm for other forward-thinking cities around the world. More than technologically and sustainably innovative, Union Point will inspire other developments to address the future as a community built on respect, inclusivity, and shared learning. At Union Point, our hope is to ensure that people, individually and collectively, can positively adapt to and embrace the accelerating changes in the world around us.  

GreenBuild will present a panel discussion on Union Point on November 8th ....
and offer a site tour of Union Point on November 11th....
We hope you will plan to register for both so that we may continue the dialogue.

Green Building Tags: