If you can make it here: New York boasts the first LEED Platinum office skyscraper

25 Aug 2010

©Screampoint for Cook + Fox Architects, LLC.

With all the sturm and drang about the Cordoba House project in lower Manhattan, there has been almost no coverage of another building in New York City. One Bryant Park or the Bank of America headquarters building  opened last year and recently received LEED platinum certification, making it, reportedly, the first LEED platinum skyscraper. This  isn’t your garden variety New York building – this is the second tallest building in Manhattan.

There are arguments that LEED doesn’t always result in indoor environmental improvements and, in some cases, doesn’t save energy, and I share those concerns.  However, this building seems to take those critics to task.  Among other things:

  • It includes a system for rainwater catchment and reuse, “greywater” recycling, energy efficient building systems, and high performance glass to maximize day-lighting and minimize solar heat gain and loss;
  • It has a co-generation electrical plant on site;
  • It has waterless urinals;
  • It includes a thermal storage system that takes excess electricity from the co-generation plant to freeze water which melts during the day to help cool the building;
  • Unlike many LEED buildings, this building’s air purification system is reported to exhaust air cleaner than it takes in;
  • The tower itself was constructed using concrete manufactured with 45% slag, a byproduct of blast furnace operations, meaning less CO2 was  generated and less waste disposed;
  • Over 90% of the construction and demolition waste was either recycled or otherwise diverted from landfill disposal and much of the construction used local recycled and recyclable materials to reduce the carbon footprint from transportation and to support the local economy.

The building doesn’t have every bell and whistle (and LEED allows this, using a “menu” type approach even for buildings seeking its highest rating), for example, the architect considered including wind turbines but discarded that as wind power would be too inconsistent to be cost-effective.

This building indicates that leadership on green considerations in construction can pay off both in terms of tenancy (the building is reportedly well leased) and efficiency, which often go hand-in-hand. I haven’t seen data in terms of its environmental efficiency but if this building delivers, it could be a trendsetter.

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