The New England Regional Council of Carpenters (NERCC) has represented the interests of its members for more than 130 years. While a long-standing regional presence, this traditional organization based in Boston, Massachusetts also embraces modern goals for its membership of 22,000 carpenters in six New England states. So, when the new home of NERCC and the Boston Carpenters Training Center was designed, it was important to organization leaders that it be comprised of both traditional and modern architectural influences.
“We’re a traditional organization that has been around for over a hundred years, but we are also a modern, innovative organization,” said Mark Erlich, NERCC executive secretary-treasurer. “We’re a group with an enormous sense of pride and we want people to see what we do.”
To achieve this goal, the new $20-million 74,000-square-foot three-story Carpenters Center – which opened in February 2010 – features a mix of materials, including traditional wood and glass as well as modern Alucobond® Aluminum Composite Material (ACM) by 3A Composites USA. The Alucobond ACM was ordered in bold custom colors and installed as exterior cladding.
Located on Boston’s Dorchester Avenue adjacent to Interstate 93 (the Southeast Expressway), the facility is home to NERCC, the Boston Carpenters Training Center and the union’s Vision Center. The long frame building – retrofitted from a former two-story laundry facility – was designed not only to draw attention from the more than 280,000 commuters who pass by it on I-93 each day but to blend with the neighborhood located on its side opposite the expressway.
“We wanted to create a façade that would grab attention,” said David Dow, NERCC Special Projects. “We wanted it to be contemporary on the highway side and feature a more traditional wood design on the side facing the neighborhood.”
A total of 43,000 square feet of Alucobond ACM in the 4mm thickness was fabricated and installed on the Carpenters Center by Sunrise Erectors, Inc., of Canton, Mass., including 10,500 square feet of the custom Copper Metallic color, 10,500 square feet of custom Carpenter Mica and 22,000 square feet of custom Pewter Creek.
(Alucobond® ACM consists of two sheets of 0.020” aluminum thermobonded to a plastic core. Alucobond provides extraordinary flatness and rigidity, excellent formability, low weight and outstanding weather resistance. Alucobond aluminum-faced panels are manufactured with a polyethylene core in a standard 4mm thickness.)
The building’s side facing the Southeast Expressway is clad solely in contemporary Alucobond ACM and features glass windows. The top two floors are clad in the custom Copper Metallic and the custom Carpenter Mica colors in an alternating pattern, while the first floor features Alucobond in the custom Pewter Creek color. Alucobond in the Pewter Creek color also is installed along with cedar wood accents on the building’s neighborhood side. Alucobond installation was completed with the Sunrise Erectors, Inc., Single-Spline Rainscreen System, including peel-and-stick membrane, custom furring, 3-inch insulation and single-spline Alucobond rainscreen.
Suffolk Construction Co., Inc., of Boston, served as general contractor on the project.
The ability to match colors in early design sketches with Alucobond custom colors was important in the selection of 3A Composites’ aluminum composite material, according to Rich Peake, project architect, ADD INC, of Boston.
“Our goal was to create a contemporary design that would incorporate metal panels and the systems of the carpenters,” said Peake. “This building also has two faces. On the highway side, we used all metal panels in an effort to simulate movement along with the passing cars. The community side features metal panels and wood.”
NERCC offices had been leased in a South Boston warehouse for years. When it was time to construct their own headquarters, NERCC executives chose to retrofit an existing building because its location offered easy access to union members as well as high visibility to Boston commuters, according to Dow.
“Our building is located on the side of a major federal highway and is equally distant from two public train stops,” said Dow. “The building had an existing floor slab that is rated at 240 psi with a 14-foot clear high ceiling. All of these elements made the location perfect for our training center.”
The former laundry facility was torn down to its structural columns – with the brick façade removed – and a third floor was added, according to Peake.
The Boston Carpenters Apprenticeship and Training Fund moved from a location in Brighton, Mass., to occupy the new building’s first floor as well as classroom space and a state-of- the-art training facility located on the second floor. The First Trade Union Bank Business Solutions Center and ATM and the union’s Vision Center – the latter of which relocated from Allston, Mass. – also occupy space on the second floor.
Offices for NERCC, the New England Carpenters Labor Management Program, and Local Nos. 51, 56 and 723 – as well as multiple conference rooms – are located on the building’s third floor. One of those conference rooms is situated directly behind the Carpenters Center 32.5-foot by 22.5-foot LED “transparent” display. The horizontal orientation and spacing of the LED sticks afford conference room occupants a 53 percent transparent view outdoors through the sign. This display is the highest-resolution transparent LED sign in the United States, as reported in the “New England Carpenter” magazine. The New England Carpenters Labor Management Program purchased the display to promote the carpentry trade and the hiring of union carpenters and contractors. Local public service announcements also are displayed on the sign.
In addition to incorporating state-of-the art elements such as the LED sign, the Carpenters Center was built to not only meet but to exceed regulations of the Boston Redevelopment Authority to ensure that all new construction projects in the city incorporate green building features. The Carpenters Center will qualify for LEED Certifiable status, according to Dow.
Additionally, the Carpenters Center has been recognized by the New England Chapter of the Association of Energy Engineers for “attaining comprehensive energy efficiency solutions through creative financing,” said Dow. The Carpenters Center received a rebate totaling $114,000 from NSTAR, the largest Massachusetts-based, investor-owned electric and gas utility. This rebate is the highest granted to date by NSTAR, according to Dow.
The new building’s contemporary architectural design has been well-received by the general public and by Boston area architects, according to Peake, who said design through construction of the Carpenters Center was completed in approximately1.5 to 2 years.
“Most people love it,” said Peake. “The reactions among architects have been very positive. They talk about the interesting colorful wedge shape on top of the monotone base (an effect produced by the custom Alucobond colors). This design is very interesting compared to a lot of Boston architecture that is classically designed. Boston is trying to change to incorporate more contemporary designs.”
“This building has had a huge, positive effect on the general public and on our industry-related friends,” said Dow. “Our general contractor (Suffolk Construction) receives calls almost daily from people who want to learn about the materials that were used to clad the building and the installation process.”
The Construction Institute (TCI) in Boston recognized the Carpenters Center in its 2010 Pride in Construction Project of the Year Awards (private sector project). TCI recognizes projects constructed in Massachusetts using union contractors and workers that have had a positive impact on the community, the construction industry and its clients.
Photos by Robert Umenhofer.