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Museum of Fine Arts

State-of-the-art sustainable services hidden from view

Founded in 1870, Boston’s historic Museum of Fine Arts launched a major effort to renovate and expand its facilities in the mid-2000s. The renovation included a new Art of the Americas Wing to feature artwork from North, South and Central America, and the adjoining Shapiro Family Courtyard, both designed by Foster + Partners. This multi-million dollar project encompassed 210,000ft2 and included new and renovated galleries, collection storage, administrative offices, classrooms, a seminar room, a 150-seat auditorium and a covered courtyard.

We provided MEP and fire protection engineering services. The 62-foot-high glass enclosed courtyard posed a particular challenge, as it was necessary to ensure a comfortable environment for visitors in both Boston’s cold winters and hot summers.

The solution includes the incorporation of many sustainable design features, including a floor that supplies radiant heating and cooling, and a mass air-displacement scheme for cooling the glass enclosure. We succeeded in making the occupied spaces comfortable for visitors without having to air-condition the entire volume of the courtyard, using a Computational Fluid Dynamics tool to validate the detailed design.

The engineering systems also had to be resilient to protect the galleries’ precious contents. These incorporate two decentralised utility plants, which operate in tandem as a central plant for maximum efficiency.

None of the services have been allowed to distract from the artwork. The engineering systems are completely hidden from view and are designed so that no pipes or mechanical equipment are positioned over any gallery.

Client Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Architect Foster + Partners; CBT
Opened November 2010
Our Services Building services, fire protection, tel-data