By Alex Cornacchia, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Lovers of turtles and bees and all wild things: rejoice! The Department of Fish and Game’s new field headquarters for the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) and the Office of Fishing and Boating Access is now ready to receive you.
Dec. 19 marked the official opening of the Richard Cronin Building, named for the former DFW director. The event drew an eclectic group of over 100 people, ranging from government officials to conservationists to wildlife aficionados, who had gathered to tour the building.
Attendees shared an abundance of stories about the unpleasantly cramped conditions in the previous headquarters: at 12,000 square feet, there was hardly enough space for the 90 employees working there, even after the three supplemental trailers were added.
“I didn’t even want to see the building that I saw many, many years ago,” resident Mark Puccio said.
By comparison, the new building boasts 45,000 square feet for offices, laboratories and meeting space, more than four times the size of old headquarters. It has an open and spacious layout, with ample natural light and views of the surrounding Westborough Wildlife Management Area. It also includes smaller touches, like a trout pond and animal tracks on the floor.
But the new headquarters is more than just a nice building. As the first zero net energy office building in Massachusetts, it also serves as a concrete example of progress in the state’s clean energy initiatives.
“Massachusetts is doing more than talking about the environment,” asserted State Rep. Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston).
Zero net energy means that the building produces energy that is equal to or more than the amount that it consumes. A 294-kilowatt solar panel array on the roof of the headquarters will provide that energy by converting sunlight into electricity, but some additional innovative mechanisms are required to help achieve the goal of balancing energy production and consumption.
Pressure differences between the air inside and outside of the building work to create a natural ventilation system; outgoing exhaust air is used to heat the incoming fresh air in a system of heat recovery. The material of the ceilings absorbs radiant heat when the building needs to be cooled, and releases heat when the opposite effect is desired. A network of pipes buried underground, where the temperature fluctuates less than above ground, make up a closed-loop geothermal well system; fluid running through the pipes collects heat from the earth to be released into the headquarters in the winter, and collects heat from the headquarters to be released into the earth in the summer.
Many of the speakers at the opening expressed hope that this building marked the beginning of a trend, something that people could look to in the future as an example of a successful clean energy initiative.
“This is a resource now to be proud of,” remarked State Sen. Stephen M. Brewer (D-Barre).
Perhaps the biggest question on peoples’ minds that day, however, was whether Richard Cronin, to whom the headquarters is dedicated, would have been proud of the building. George L. Daley, chair of the Fisheries and Wildlife Board, didn’t have a doubt in his mind.
“This tie clasp I have on today is his,” Daley said, holding it up for everyone to see. “I wear this every time I go somewhere I think he might like to be.”