EPA New England Regional Laboratory

General Information

Exterior photo of the EPA New England Regional Laboratory
  • Building Name: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, New England Regional Laboratory
  • Building Location: 11 Technology Drive, Chelmsford, Massachusetts, USA
  • Project Size (ft², m²):
    • Gross Square Feet: app. 72,000 on 11.97 acres
    • Rentable Square Feet: 68,950
    • Net Usable Square Feet: 49,962
  • Building Type(s): Single story laboratory and administrative office and support space, with hazardous materials storage building and boat storage
  • Project Type: New Construction
  • Delivery Method: Lease/Build
  • Total Building Costs: $18.3 million
  • Owner: U.S. EPA New England
  • Building Architect/Project Team:
    • Developer: Acquest Development
    • Architect: Bernard Johnson Young & Carol Johnson Assoc.
    • Contractor: Erland Construction, Inc.
  • Project Contact Person:


A. Project Description

The EPA's New England Regional Laboratory (NERL), a project constructed by Acquest Development Company in Chelmsford, Massachusetts has been an industry leader in its Construction Waste Management (CWM) program since its completion in June of 2001. From conception the project was charged to "make use of the best commercially-available materials and technologies to minimize consumption of energy and resources and maximize use of natural, recycled and non-toxic materials." During design, a large number of building products with high recycled content were specified, diverting large quantities of otherwise waste by-products from becoming landfill. Finally, exemplary construction waste management on site, throughout construction has surpassed current building practice and set a new standard for the industry.

The building contains 24 laboratories with laboratory support space, administrative office and support space, conference rooms, training rooms, a computer room, lunch room, and a library.

Photo of the lab interior with fume cabinet

Lab interior with fume cabinet.

Building features include:

  • Building Integrated Photovoltaic Array
  • 100% "Green Power" purchase
  • Modular boilers
  • Chiller upgrade, Screw chiller with cooling tower
  • Daylighting, solar tubes, borrowed light, light shelves to be added
  • Xeriscaping
  • Use of collected rainwater to recharge adjoining wetlands
  • Advanced construction waste management
  • Extensive use of recycled materials
  • High efficiency motors and pumps with variable speed drives
  • VAV air handling systems
  • Low VOC , indoor air quality monitoring
  • Alternative fuel recharging station
  • Occupancy sensors and daylighting controls
  • Low flow water fixtures
  • Vortechnics unit to pre-treat storm water surface runoff
  • Extensive building commissioning

B. Project Goals

Overall Project Goal/Philosophy

To construct a safe, efficient, economical state-of-the-art lab using sustainable principles. To be flexible as well as expandable.

Accessible Goal

Fully accessible

Aesthetic Goal

To be consistent with the mission of the EPA

Cost-Effective Goal

Within Budget

Functional Goal

Efficient, flexible state-of-the-art lab

Historic Preservation Goal


Productive Goal

Efficient, flexible, state-of-the-art lab

Secure/Safe Goal

Level 3

Sustainable Goal

LEED® Gold

Other Significant Aspects Of The Project

The genesis for the design of the facility began in the early 1990's and as such, much of the initial design specifications for the building hadn't included major energy efficient or green provisions. The team members, (mindful of Executive Orders 13101: Greening the Government through Waste Prevention, Recycling and Federal Acquisition and 13123: Greening the Government through Efficient Energy Management) were in agreement. They would do whatever they could to modify the design, to take advantage of new technologies, to include new, innovative, and improved construction materials and techniques. The EPA NERL would be as energy efficient and incorporate as many environmentally friendly or green features as possible within budgetary constraints. Their shared vision was to make this a state-of-the-art environmental analysis laboratory which would also serve as a showplace where both EPA and GSA could demonstrate that they "walk the talk". The team chose to achieve the lofty goal of being) the first laboratory facility to earn at least a Silver rating from the U.S. Green Building Council's "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design" (LEED®) rating ( program). This is a significant accomplishment as laboratories are notoriously energy inefficient and as such do not normally lend themselves to a LEED® rating.


Overview Of Process

As a design/build lease project multiple design options/offers were evaluated prior to award. The Source Selection Panel selected the best offer based on evaluation factors of price, experience, and technical excellence. Post Award, the use of an interactive, collaborative process helped to redefine the project as an innovative, energy efficient model. The Government hired a LEED® consultant to generate options for the mechanical systems and provide LCCA for each option. The Developer hired the AE firm of Vanderweil Associates and solicited support from the local utility via the Energy 2000 program. The Team utilized Web-Based Project Management to allow constant, interactive communication. The team evaluated options, trade-offs ultimately selecting the most viable options for inclusion in the final design.

Pre-Design/Planning Activities

The production of the Solicitation For Offers, (SFO), Source Selection Activities including multiple reviews of each offer.

Design Activities

This basically became a Fast Track design/build Project. Options were constantly evaluated by the team with considerable input from the General Contractor and selected for implementation based on the impact on ongoing construction activities, budget, and schedule. As a result of this process some desirable options could not be included as the window of opportunity had closed.

Construction Activities

Advanced Construction Waste Management, on-site rock crushing for fill, stockpiling of topsoil for landscaping. Extensive use of recycled materials.

Operations/Maintenance Activities

Extensive Commissioning, on-site property manager. Computer based O&M program.

Post-Occupancy Evaluation Activities

Re-commissioning, benchmarking, and measurement of water use, energy use.

Construction waste management for the Laboratory began prior to construction. In pre-design, site planning utilized the resources naturally available on the site, such as solar, natural shading, and drainage to avoid the generation of unnecessary debris and minimize site demolition. The Laboratory was situated to take maximum advantage of the natural topography. The hilltop location provides positive drainage away from the building, and benefits from the natural cooling effects of prevailing winds. Existing trees and natural areas were maintained as much as possible to shelter and shade the building and natural outcroppings were left throughout the site to enhance the natural setting.

Prior to the commencement of site clearing operations, erosion control measures including a combined straw bale/silt fence system were set in place. This enhanced detail served to protect both the large wetland in the SW corner of the site and to ensure that no soil migrated off site on the steep north edge. In areas where site disturbance was necessary for construction, every effort was made to stockpile any reusable debris. In particular, all soil and gravel within the limit of work was stockpiled and graded for later reuse as fill or loam. Collected gravel was used as base of concrete pavement, sub-base for bituminous concrete pavement, backfill for footings and structure, pipe bedding and backfill, and under-drain filter aggregate. Soil was screened to meet the specifications of loam for lawns and plantings or otherwise reused as general fill. Reuse of on-site material was sufficient to complete the landscaping and fill work with only a minimal amount of fine grading material (sand) brought on-site for finish grading.

In the schematic design stage, building materials with high recycled content were sought and specified to seamlessly integrate into the design of NERL. Building materials with recycled content contain feedstock material recovered from consumer or industrial waste streams. Using these recycled or recovered waste products reduces the use of virgin materials, reduces solid waste streams, and encourages recycling within the industry.

During the construction stage of the project an aggressive construction waste management plan was set in place. Construction activities naturally generate solid waste (an estimated 28% of the landfill material in the U.S.), yet much of this waste is "clean waste" and easily recyclable. For NERL, Graham Waste Services was identified and hired as a licensed hauler and processor of recyclables and other waste materials. In a letter dated 3/22/2000, Robert Schwartz stated, "Graham Waste Services will provide separate containers as requested for materials including but not limited to, the following: cardboard, metals, plastic, glass, gypsum board, carpet, wood, non-recyclable construction and demolition material, concrete, brick, asphalt, land clearing debris, and beverage containers. Materials that can be recycled will be disposed of at appropriate recycling facilities ... In addition, Graham Waste Services will work with Erland to ensure that clean dimensional wood, plastic, glass, gypsum board, and carpet are recycled, and will evaluate the cost effectiveness of recycling rigid foam insulation, engineered wood products, and other materials."

A concerted effort was made by all members of the design and construction team to first minimize all waste and then maximize recycling and reuse of the material going into the waste stream. According to the Foreman of Erland Construction, "All the subs were pretty helpful about getting on-board with recycling. At first some of the laborers didn't understand why we were doing it, but once you got them in the rhythm, it was easy. We just had to stay on them early. Now it's no problem and everything runs smoothly." From start to finish, reduction of waste through efficient design and at the source–on the job site–was emphasized. Whatever waste was generated during construction was carefully sorted and properly disposed of in the recycling bins. These bins were located initially on the south side and later relocated to the west side of the building and were clearly marked for designated recycling materials. The result was that over half the solid waste generated from construction was diverted from landfill and, instead, recycled.

Information and Tools



Products and Systems

The Team spent many hours in planning and negotiating tradeoffs with the developer to achieve a green building. This started with the initiation of an advanced construction site recycling program (at a cost savings of over $10,000) and continued with the onsite crushing of approximately 17,500 tons of blasted rock for use onsite; saving disposal costs and reducing truck traffic. Specified building shell CMU backup was exchanged for metal stud and gypsum with added insulation to increase R value and recycled material content. This option resulted in a $22,000 credit used by the team to offset other costs.

NERL used a high, fly-ash content in its concrete. Fly-ash is a by-product of industrial coal combustion and its disposal causes problems in the form of land use, health hazards, and environmental dangers. A mitigating reuse of fly-ash is to use it as a supplement in concrete mix. This both reduces the amount of concrete necessary for new construction as well as diverts large quantities of fly-ash away from landfills. In the construction of the New England Regional Laboratory to date, the total quantity of fly-ash used is 243,286lbs. The projected total for the project is 251,582lbs. The result is saving approximately 126 tons of fly-ash from becoming part of the waste stream.

The following Table estimates recycled content of some of the materials used in the EPA's New England Regional Laboratory. By using such a large number of recycled products and building materials, an estimated 200 tons were reused in building construction rather than sent to a landfill.

Building MaterialPercentage Recycled Content
Concrete20% Fly-Ash Content
Reinforcing Steel in Concrete95%-100% recycled scrap steel
Framing Steel85% recycled steel
Gypsum Board10% recycled or synthetic
Facing Paper for Gypsum100% recycled newsprint
Acoustic Ceiling Panels60% recycled material
Fiberglass Insulation20% recycled glass cullet
Ceiling Suspension Systems60% recycled material
Hydromulch100% recovered materials

The following table shows the volume of material diverted to date from the waste stream and recycled by Graham Waste Services.

MaterialsSize (Cu. Yd.)Percent of Waste Stream (by Volume)Cost ($) per 30 Cu. Yd. ContainerCost ($) Savings
Clean Wood33021%325$2200
General Refuse78049%525$0
Total Recycled Material81051% Total Savings: $4,050

Typically in new construction, new building materials are ordered and sized appropriately minimizing construction scrap. Carpet and gypsum board are major exceptions, generating a high volume of scrap. On site, scraps of carpet and gypsum were carefully segregated and recycled. In fact, recycling programs for gypsum in the vicinity have been so successful, that one difficulty encountered by Graham Waste Service during the project was that the local recycling facility for gypsum had reached capacity. As a result, it was necessary for Graham Waste Service to temporarily store the recycling bins of gypsum off site while they relocated to an alternative facility.

Photo of the water and fluid system

Water and fluid system

A great percentage of waste is generated from shipping and packing materials as well as materials used for temporary construction. Attention was paid by the construction team to recycle packing and shipping materials when shipments were received. In the damp New England climate, however, it was difficult to reuse the wood used in temporary construction. Finished construction mandates the use of fire-rated wood. Fire-rated wood is very sensitive to moisture and is significantly damaged or warped beneath construction grade when used in temporary, exterior applications. Nonfire-rated wood was, therefore, used and then recycled in all temporary construction for the project.

In addition to the capabilities available in the previous facility in Lexington, several new chemical analytical capabilities were added to this facility including a metals clean room suite incorporating class 100 clean room design and enabling the quantifying of metals in the part per trillion range in ambient water; a liquid chromatography and gas chromatography laboratory allowing the analysis of such non-traditional organics as endocrine disrupting chemicals and pharmaceuticals; and a partial containment and high resolution mass spectrometry lab specifically designed with the capability of addressing high hazard materials such as dioxin. Automated flow-through sediment toxicity and aquatic culturing laboratories were also designed augmenting the Lab's biological testing capabilities.

Energy Issues

Energy Use Description

Photo of the modular boilers

Modular boilers

Confronted with an initial design concept that failed to not incorporate many of the desired energy efficient and sustainable design features green items required to support their vision, the Team (comprised of members from EPA's New England Regional Office, EPA's Engineering, Architectural, and Real Estate Branch and GSA's New England Office) worked tirelessly to make it happen. The Team was able to incorporate several energy saving mechanical systems through normal funding and by working with GSA to secure credits through the local power utility. The systems included gas-fired modular boilers, water-cooled chillers, daylight dimmers, occupancy sensors, energy efficient light ballasts, high-efficiency motors and variable flow pumping systems, variable volume heating and cooling systems with night and low occupancy setbacks, low-E windows, daylighting through transom windows, skylights and solar tubes, and a state-of-the-art building management system. Taken all together, these will make the building at least 35% more efficient than comparable buildings. These energy efficient efforts were highlighted as part of EPA and DOE's "You Have the Power" campaign for saving EPA over $100,000 annually in energy costs.

While this was a good start, the Team realized that although they couldn't reduce the facility's energy demands much further, they could reduce the amount of pollution generated from powering it. To this end, the Team worked to secure green power for its energy needs. This was accomplished by EPA agreeing to pay a "power premium" for purchasing wind-powered electricity generated in Vermont and New York which matches the electrical consumption of the new facility, estimated at close to 2 million kilowatt hours annually. Based on estimates of CO2 production for electricity generation in 2000 in New England, this amounts to a reduction in CO2 emissions of approximately 3.4 million pounds per year.

Photo of solar panels used as shading devices

Solar panels used as shading devices

Another energy initiative was the incorporation of building integrated photovoltaic awning shades on the west and south office areas to reduce glare and heat gain while producing electricity which is put back into the power grid. These photovoltaic shades were funded by GSA's Energy Center of Expertise as part of their "Green Building" commitment, another example of the close working relationship and shared vision of the Team.

Additional green features include ultra-low VOC paint, sealants, and adhesives; electronic sensors on the plumbing fixtures in the restrooms; use of an on-site well for minimal laboratory make-up water and minimal start up irrigation needs; use of a portion of the roof runoff for wetland augmentation; and xeriscape design using native plants and grasses to minimize water, fertilizer, and pesticide use.

Indoor Environment

Indoor Environment Approach

The following indoor environmental strategies were implemented in this project:

  • Circulation/ventilation effectiveness-single pass system forces 100 percent outside air
  • Transoms allow more natural light deeper into the building
  • Low VOC paints, adhesives, and sealants

Project Results

A. Lessons Learned

The New England Regional Laboratory Design and Construction Team worked for over four years to ensure that the new facility, which came online September, 2001, would incorporate state-of-the-art environmental testing capabilities while providing an energy efficient and environmentally responsible laboratory setting. This Team comprised members from EPA's New England Regional Office, EPA's Engineering, Architectural and Real Estate Branch and GSA's New England Office.

Over time, laboratories invariably need to be reconfigured or expanded to meet changing research needs. The Chelmsford laboratory was designed and constructed with the following features to enable quick, cost- and material-effective modifications with minimal disruption to the rest of the building. Electrical and mechanical systems, including waste piping, are fed down two central spines and continued past the last module to allow easy extension into expansion space without taking other labs off line. Foundation walls were extended beyond the end walls and feature detailing to facilitate expansion without disrupting laboratory operations. Generic 11' by 26' modular laboratory units were used which are flexible enough in arrangement, layout, HVAC, plumbing and electrical capacity and distribution, to adapt to new programs and requirements without major alterations or expense. At the end of its useful life, the majority of the building construction materials can be captured, separated, and recycled at demolition, "cradle to cradle".

As noted earlier, most of the energy efficient and environmentally friendly features came from the vision of the Team and only achieved through their hard work and dedication. The Team has been approached by many groups for tours of the facility; both for its cutting edge environmental science capabilities as well as its energy efficient and environmentally friendly aspects.

In general, the foreman felt that recycling on site presented, "no problems". Graham Waste Service was helpful and responsive. Moreover, the advanced recycling program provided by Graham Waste Service has been a great selling point for them. They market themselves as having experience with Green Building design and have found members of the construction industry to be very responsive.

The EPA's New England Regional Laboratory remains committed to recycling and diverting waste from the waste stream. The project underwent LEED® certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, and expected to earn a Silver rating, and instead achieved a Gold Rating. When outfitting the building both during construction and upon completion many products, furnishing, and equipment were scheduled to be taken from the existing EPA Laboratory building for reuse or re-appropriation at the new Chelmsford facility. These included refrigerators, a Buck boost transformer, and miscellaneous lab equipment.

Finally, the building will continue to have a recycling program throughout its lifetime. Central recycling rooms and facilities have been part of the project design from the start, a commitment of dedicated square footage to ensure recycling efforts continue. The loading dock was designed to accommodate a baler ordered by the EPA, again to compact materials and reduce the volume of the waste stream. The EPA's New England Regional Laboratory has taken and will continue to take large steps towards conservation and sustainability through an advanced recycling and Construction Waste Management Program.

The Regional Administrator wrote: "We hope the benefits of the North Chelmsford Lab will extend beyond the site itself, providing inspiration and a concrete example that others can follow and improve on as new technologies become available."

This collaborative effort epitomizes intergovernmental cooperation and demonstrates how EPA and GSA "walk the talk" with regard to energy conservation and reducing the Lab's environmental footprint.

B. Ratings

Gold Rating, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Program (LEED) Version 1.0, 4/2003

C. Awards

  1. GSA Environmental Award, 4/2002
  2. Real Property Innovation Award, 10/2002
  3. Associated Builders and Contractors: Excellence in Construction Award, 11/2001, Category: New Construction under $25,000,000
  4. GSA Demolition Derby: Model facility and non-hazardous waste, 4/2002
  5. GSA Meritorious Team Award, 5/2002
  6. 2002 White House Closing the Circle Award, 6/2002 Category: Model Facility
  7. EPA Regional Bronze Medal, 11/2002
  8. Industrial Designers Society of America Gold Medal Award for industrial design excellence of solar shades, 2001
  9. Association of General Contractors: Build Massachusetts Merit Award, 10/2003

D. Publishing



  • "Smarter Solutions", an article in www.green@work, March/April 2003 issue
  • "Solar Power, Thanks to Plug-n-Play" an article in "Save with Solar and Wind" (PDF 653 KB)— a technical bulletin for Federal solar and wind energy champions, summer 2002 edition
  • "Building Design and Construction" magazine, November 2003 issue
  • "New England Real Estate/Construction Journal," January 2004 issue


  • The lab was featured by FEMP in 2002 in the "You Have the Power" poster.