Monday, January 21, 2013

The Amazing Lack of Density of the Boston Fed

The three tallest buildings in Boston are:

  1. The John Hancock Tower at 790 feet with 60 stories
  2. The Prudential Center at 749 feet with 52 stories
  3. The Boston Fed at 641 feet with 32 stories
Their floor-area ratios (the amount of interior space they have relative to their overall ground footprint) are:
  1. 25.44 (see here)
  2. 5.93*
  3. 4.34 (see here)
* This includes the entire Prudential Center, which has a footprint of over 1 million square feet, or 100,000 square meters. Much of this is retail space; the office portions are much higher. See section 2-8 of this report.

The Pru sort of gets an out. It was built on former rail yards and above a highway, it's had more density added in recent years, and a lot of it is an indoor shopping area and supermarket. In addition, it's better oriented itself to nearby streets in recent years (although it certainly has a ways to go to integrate in to the neighborhood). 

The Fed doesn't. It has a big outdoor plaza and a small, low-rise conference center and … not much else. There's a nice plaza outside (we wrote about it's many bollards) with an adjacent entrance to the subway. (Interesting to note that the three tallest buildings in town are all within a block of a major transit node.) But transit is a great place to build dense buildings. You don't need a lot of parking spaces, as innumerable people can walk through the doors without major congestion. Maybe you won't build the Hancock tower. But a FAR of 4? That's no improvement over the low-rise buildings the site replaced. It's not as bad as a suburban office tower surrounded by parking lots, but for such a tall building, it has a large footprint, and surprisingly little inside space.


  1. How do I calculate the cubic feet of the John Hancock Tower using the floor area ratio?

  2. Uhm, you don't? But if you did want to, all you need to know is the height of the building and the footprint. The trapezoidal part is 30m by 70m (give or take), so that is 2100 square meters per floor. The height is 240m, so 504k cubic meters.